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Bread bursting through slashes - help please!

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rossnroller's picture
rossnroller

Bread bursting through slashes - help please!

Hi folks. Would appreciate some advice/troubleshooting, please.


Lately, my SD breads have been bursting through slashes or even the seam under the loaf. The bread still tastes fine, crumb reasonably even etc, but I'm puzzled as to why I keep turning out these malformed loaves. This never used to happen - it began suddenly, about 3 weeks ago. Every one of my last 5 or 6 loaves has been afflicted thus, regardless of the starter used, the recipe or dough composition, or shape (boule, or batard). I am using the same techniques I've been using for over a year, shaping the same way (a la Hamelman), with oven temps the same. What the...??!!


Can anyone suggest a reason for these apparently explosive oven events?


NB: I have another couple of pics of a batard I baked today that burst through one of three oblique slash marks. These pics include a crumb shot, so if that might help with a diagnosis, please let me know and I'll upload this further evidence!


Cheers
Ross


 



 

ananda's picture
ananda

Hi Ross,


The dough obviously still has a lot of life left in it, so the sudden rise which results when you put it in the oven is causing your dough to rupture in this way.


Maybe it's a good sign that your dough is getting stronger, and needs slightly longer fermentation?   also, it's coming to your winter time now, yes?   Maybe the cooler temperature is slowing down the rate of dough fermentation


Lovely crust on your boule, by the way.


All good wishes


Andy

rossnroller's picture
rossnroller

I did wonder whether the cooler temps might be playing some part, and your suggestion that the fermentation is slowing down might well explain things. So, if this theory is correct, I need to increase my fermentation time - but would this apply to the bulk proof, the post-shaping proof, or both?


I should give some more details of my proof times, actually. Bulk proof = 2.5 hours with S&Fs every 30 mins, then I retard the dough in the fridge overnight, leave it out next day to warm a little (about 40 mins), then preshape and rest 10 mins, shape and prove 45 mins.


However, I also had the same burst slash phenomenon with a boule I shaped and proved then retarded overnight and baked straight out of the fridge next day.


Cheers
Ross


 

ananda's picture
ananda

Hard to be definite Ross.


For sure, your final proof will need adjustment.


Have a look at what Hans is saying below about flour possibilities.


Sorry I can't be more help; I'll keep thinking


Best wishes


Andy

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

in combination with cooler temperatures.  Sounds like you might need to pay less attention to the clock and more to the dough condition.  Are you doing any checks (finger poke, etc.) of how far the dough has proofed?  I suspect that when you pull it from the fridge, the dough isn't warming as much now as it did when ambient temperatures were higher.  A consequence would be some degree of underproofing, which could manifest as blowouts like you are experiencing.  I've had to do some adjusting here in South Africa, too.  So far, putting a container of hot water alongside the dough in a cooler is working well as a make-shift proofer. 


For what it's worth, try letting the dough rise longer after shaping until it has inflated to the desired degree.  Or, provide it with a warmer environment if you want to stay inside a certain time window.


Good luck.


Paul

gary.turner's picture
gary.turner

Since the scored slits are poorly widened, my first suspicion is that the crust is hardening too soon.  Have you changed your steaming method lately? Or letting the dough sit for a while before putting it in the oven?


cheers,


gary

rossnroller's picture
rossnroller

As per my response to Andy, I do let the dough sit before baking, since I do my final proof after an overnight retard in the fridge. And even when baking straight out of the fridge, the burst crust is still happening.


I've never had the nice even widening of the criss-cross slashes that I've seen on some folks' breads, so that's a good point about the crust hardening too soon. I wonder how I can address that?


My steaming method does not really qualify as true steaming (at least, according to Hamelman's observations, which I would not think to question!): prior to loading the dough, I drop a couple of ice cubes into a lasagne tin that's been sitting in the bottom of the oven throughout the pre-heating period, and immediately after slipping the dough on to a heated pizza stone, I spray a few bursts of water over it and around the oven and shut the door ASAP, repeat a couple of minutes later, and that's it. I remove the lasagne pan 15 minutes into the bake, rotate the loaf and drop the temp down a bit. By then, the bursting effect is evident, so it's happening in the first 15 minutes (which supports Andy's comments).


Don't know if any of the above is significant...


Cheers
R

gary.turner's picture
gary.turner

Try being more aggressive with the steam.  Instead of a few ice cubes, pour a cup of near boiling water into the pan, then spritz the loaf and the walls of the oven.  Spritz again in about five minutes, then turn the temp down.


Also, be sure you're scoring the dough immediately before putting it in the oven.


cheers,


gary

bpezzell's picture
bpezzell

I agree with Gary, with this proviso. Take the lasagna tin out of the oven. Get a cast iron pan, 8 inches or larger. You need the mass of iron to hold the heat. Tin, aluminum, stainless steel just don't cut it. Heat it in the oven at least an hour before baking, or on a red hot burner before placing it in the oven. Pour that cup of hot water in the pan and you will have a regular boiler producing serious steam for the initial 5-10 minutes of the bake. The added benefit is that most of that water boils away in that time, eliminating the need to open the oven and remove the pan. Mine never leaves the oven.

flournwater's picture
flournwater

Two votes for Gary's advice.


In addition to steaming, I sometimes spray the top of the loaf itself before putting it into the oven, then steaming as usual..  That shoft "bath" seems to help a lot.

hansjoakim's picture
hansjoakim

Hi Ross,


My initial response is similar to Gary's and Andy's: Underproofing and/or insufficient steam. However, this is something that happened for the first time three weeks ago, and you've had success with your steaming setup in the past, right? That seems to rule out insufficient steam, correct? Apart from the changing seasons and falling temperatures, I'm thinking about flour. You are using the same brand as before, right? Low enzyme activity in flour can prolong fermentation times greatly, and often results in a rather dull, lacklustre crust colour. Although millers strive to deliver consistent products, these values (falling numbers) can vary from one season/batch to the next - especially so for smaller mills. Do you think that might be the problem?


Edit: As Andy says above, keep experimenting. A fresh batch of flour, a different brand or adding some malt to your existing batch of flour could help determine whether the flour's to blame.

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Ross,


Seeing how the slashes didn't share in the expansion, I have to wonder if you might be over developing the dough. Greater energy late in the bake would be a symptom of the temperature in the center of the dough being colder than the outer layers. The last dough to warm to the killing temp is of course in the center.


It could be that your culture is more powerful at this time due to the cooler ambient temps and your feeding schedule. If you are using the starter earlier in the cycle due to cooler conditions it would be stronger upon use I think. There are several well experienced comments above. Glad to see this is getting ink. Interesting.


Just for fun, try less handling, fewer stretching/folding and developing. The outer cloak will be more open to expansion.


Eric


PS: This is bread flour?

DonD's picture
DonD

Since the burst is lopsided, it is possible that the slashes are uneven with some deeper than others. Remember that the dough will take the path of least resistance to expand, so where you score deeper will burst first. If you have even scoring, the top will spread out evenly and you will call it a spectacular oven spring instead of a blow-out.


Don

dlstanf2's picture
dlstanf2

I found that using water in a container, underneath my stone, to provide steam kept my loaves soft in the middle. I solved this by using a cookie sheet, which I used to proof my loaf overnight,  placing it and my loaf on my baking stone, after slashing and spraying the loaf, pan and oven with water. I would spray again after 6 minutes, rotate the pan, and then spray the last time just before reducing the temp for the last partion of baking. During the last 15 minutes, I removed the bread from the backingand place it directly on the stone, and finish with a 10 minute rest in the oven with the door open to dry the loaf.


BTW, I remove the bread directly from the fridge, slash, and then bake.


My loaves look like this, but I'm still working on improving my techniques.


Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

semmel cut, except I don't connect the middle cuts and get more height on this shape.  I do let them rise on parchment which heats up much faster than a cold cookie sheet in the oven. What does the bottom look like?  Has it also a rich brown crust?  Have you tried covering the loaf instead of spraying the oven?


As you can tell, I'm wondering about your steaming technique, if it could be tweaked.  Everytime the oven is opened after the first initial steaming, more steam (it's invisable) escapes than what can be added.  Steam is most important in the first 10-12 minutes.  I would not open the oven after 6 minutes to rotate, it is a crucial time not to stop or slow down the bake by loosing heat & steam opening the door.


To avoid too much browning on one side (the reason for rotating) turn off the fan or find a way to block the hot wind a fan creates.  (A friend had this trouble and we discovered the baffle that normally covered the fan spreading the heat evenly around the oven was missing, not replaced after the oven was cleaned before she bought the house.  We had to order a new one.)


Mini

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

first before it was scored and some more before it hit the oven.  Did you drop your room humidity by turning on the heat 3 weeks ago?


Mini

rossnroller's picture
rossnroller

Really appreciate all your comments. There are quite a few possiblites to work through, and even if your suggested remedies do not prove to be applicable in my case, you've given me a good checklist of things to pay more attention to in the future!


OK, here's a pic of today's bake, this time with proof times extended as follows:



  • Pre-retard bulk proof 3hours 45mins (usually 2h 30m)

  • Retarded in fridge overnight, then warmup out of fridge for 1hour 30mins (usually 40m)

  • Pre-shape and rest 10mins (as per usual)

  • Shape, then proof 1 hour (usually 45m)


The result?



!!!


I'm quite embarassed about this one, because I'd promised it to a friend. I've never given away a herniated, scoliotic loaf like this, but a promise is a promise...they've all been as good as ever in flavour, crumb, etc, so whatever's going wrong is not affecting the eating quality of the bread. I suppose I can hang on to that as a facesaver of sorts...


I should add, I no longer consider myself a newbie. I've averaged 2-3 bakes per week for over a year, including many different breads, some from Hamelman, Reinhart, Glezer, Lepard etc, but most from folk here (eg: DM Snyder, Shiao-Ping) or from my other bread home, sourdoughcompanion. The great majority of my loaves have been very respectable in appearance. So it's a matter of real puzzlement and mounting irritation that I've now turned out 7 of these busted-open mutants in succession...and even more so that extending the proof times doesn't seem to be the answer (I was almost certain that it was).


It's not cold here at the moment, BTW - low 20sC (70-75F). So I guess the dough fermentation hasn't slowed all that much.


I can outrule a few things:



  • I do slash only seconds before putting the loaf in the oven (thanks for the suggestion, though, Gary).

  • No, I haven't changed my steaming method at all. It's less than ideal, I know, but I've had no problem with bursting bread until the last 2 or 3 weeks, so Hans' comments on this seem logical to me - if I'd changed my steaming method, different results might be expected, but I haven't, so I think I can elminate steaming as a factor here.

  • DonD, good point about inconsistent slashing depth - and one that was certainly applicable a few bakes back, soon after this problem started. I did make a slash too deep in one loaf, and indeed the rise burst through that slash...but since then, I've been particularly careful to keep my slashing even and consistent, and still the problem persists.

  • dlstanf2, I also sometimes slash and bake straight out of the fridge...and am still having loaves burst out during the bake. So that ain't it - but thanks.

  • No, Mini, I haven't had the heater on yet, because the temps are still pretty mild. The crust didn't appear to have dried out before scoring or loading the dough in the oven, either. I had it covered with plastic and a cloth during the proof, as usual. Thanks for the thought, though.


So, that leaves:



  1. Hans' suggestion that there may be milling differences in the flours. I use a combo of flours, and these have not changed in terms of brand or source, but who knows...I find it appealing to think that the blame might lie elsewhere but with lil' ol' moi (thanks Hans!), but I guess I should persist in the detective work in the meantime, and if the problem goes away when I replenish my current flour supplies, I'll be happy to exonerate myself for this unsightly succession of misshapen breads!

  2. Eric's suggestion that I might be overdeveloping the dough. It's true, actually, that fairly recently I've changed from S&Fs once hourly during the bulk proof to twice hourly. Not sure if this has conincided exactly with the bursting problem, but I've gotta look at overdevelopment as a real possibility - thanks Eric!

  3. PMcCool's question as to whether I check how far the dough has proved via finger-poking is relevant. Indeed, I do watch the clock rather than watching the dough - bad habit, and reflects of a bit of a laissez-faire attitude that I've developed over time with my bread baking. So often I've been distracted and missed a S&F or let a dough prove too long etc...and the bread still seems to come out fine! I have become a bit casual. So, that's a pertinent reminder that dough watching is the way to go, rather than going by the clock. I have to confess, I've forgotten how to tell if a dough is properly proofed. Could someone remind me, please - or better still, ignore me so I have to go and re-read some of the bread gurus!

  4. Maybe I need to extend the proof even longer than I did today? It is possible that the dough was still underproofed, I guess.


If anyone else has further advice or comments, always appreciated. It's really gratifying to be part of such a supportive community. I don't get any such sense outside the virtual world...


Big cheers all!
Ross

PeterPiper's picture
PeterPiper

I can't believe nobody's pointed this out, but you have a huge variation in baking temperature on that loaf.  The right side is really dark and the lighter side on the left is where the loaf burst open.  Since sourdough culture is a living thing, a cooler bake temperature gives it a few extra minutes for that last gasp, the oven spring.  The hotter half of the loaf on the right crusted over and the culture died before the left half, which is not nearly as dark brown.  After about ten or fifteen minutes, rotate your loaf 180 degrees, and do it again at 30.  I think you'll find that helps even out the bursting loaf.


Good luck!


-Peter


http://psoutowood.wordpress.com

ananda's picture
ananda

Hi Ross,


Sorry to read you're still having trouble.


No, I certainly wouldn't consider you a "newbie"; you turn outy lovely bread consistently.


Can you feedback on Mini's point?   Is the surface of your dough becoming too dried out in the proving stages?   It could be happening during refrigeration, or final proof; but if the dough has formed any sort of skin, this sort of bursting out is very likely to occur.


I know you've been given some great suggestions by well-informed TFL regulars here, so I'm sure you'll have this sorted pretty soon


All good wishes


Andy

rossnroller's picture
rossnroller

I can't add much to what I've already written in response to Mini (see last of my bulleted points in previous post above). I haven't noticed my dough surface becoming dried out during the bulk proof outside the fridge, and certainly not during the final proof. I always drape the proving dough with an oiled foodgrade plastic bag, inside a 10L oblong Decor plastic container with the lid snapped on, which I would have thought would have minimised any drying - between S&Fs, for example.


There is sometimes a bit of hardening and drying out of the ends of the dough during the overnight retard in the fridge, but this has been the case all through my baking, and has never caused a problem that I'm aware of. If there is any such drying overnight, I do a couple of S&Fs as soon as I remove the dough from the fridge, making sure the dried areas are folded into the dough interior. If baking straight out of the fridge after an overnight retard, the dough is already shaped, and any drying on the outer crust area under the plastic bag in which the dough has been enclosed while refrigerated has never caused an issue during the bake as far as I'm aware.


Wish I could cry out mia culpa! I wanna know what I'm buggering up and as soon as I do I'll gladly own up!


Thanks for your interest. Appreciated.


Cheers
Ross

hansjoakim's picture
hansjoakim

Hi Ross,


To figure out if this is something to with your starter and its activity: Do you experience similar bursting patterns with other SD formulas? What about straight formulas (i.e. with or without a yeasted preferment)?

rossnroller's picture
rossnroller

I have only baked 3 different SD breads (ie: different formulae) since this problem has been occurring - and it's happened with all 3.


I have 3 starters, one of which I adopted from Yozza, and have used 2 of them in my recent bakes. The problem has occurred with dough using both!


My starters are very lively and active, smell healthy, and I use them at peak ripeness only. When I take one out of the fridge, I do a 2 or 3 feed build over 24 hours before baking.


I wouldn't have thought the starters were an issue, but until I can work out what's going wrong, anything is possible!


Straight formulae don't apply in my case - I rarely deviate from baking only naturally leavened breads, and have not done so since this bursting issue arose.


Grrrr...!


But thanks a lot for your interest.


Cheers
R

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

was the first thing that popped into my head.  Let it proof longer before baking.  If I add up the hours...  you're pushing it.


The 'ol poke test....  gosh, you want some resistance but the dent should not fill in right away.  After a minutes you might still see where you poked it.  OK, that's boarderline but that's what you're shooting for.   It should be filling in and will be gone when it's baked.    (Ask me something easy, about rye or something.) I don't suppose I poke too often. I rest my wet hand on it, and give it a little shove.  That tells me more but how do I discribe it?


You gotta figure this out soon.  You don't want elves to come in and take over.  They love bulging loaves!  Oh! That could be it... elves!  Tell your friend he's getting 1 1/2 loaves, it's a "bonus" elf loaf.   One end for round sandwiches and the other end for oval.  Frustrating.


Have you got yourself a mister?  Try misting lightly (those things can really douse) before covering with oiled plasticrap and see if that helps.   Try washing your hands slowly in warm water before handling the dough and turn on some good music.


Susan (San Diego) says that if you can't figure things out,  go pamper your starter and get it into shape, the other problems then fall into line.


Mini

rossnroller's picture
rossnroller


  1. When you say re my proofing that when you add up the hours I'm pushing it, do you mean I'm not proofing long enough, generally speaking? I'd be curious if that's the case, simply because my current proofing routines have yielded good breads of pretty reasonable appearance until now. But I'm open to all possibilities. Would you increase both bulk and final proof periods, and if so, how much more from today's bake, pls?

  2. Ta for the reminder on the poke test. Will definitely do that next time and see what it tells me.

  3. Yeah, I do use a mister to spray the dough and inside the oven at the beginning of a bake. But you're suggesting using it during when - the bulk proof, overnight retardation in the fridge, or final proof? Or all 3, perhaps?

  4. I think my starters are in fine nick, but you never know...maybe I'm overlooking something to do with them. Can't imagine what, though.


Thanks for your input - much appreciated.


Cheers
R

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

underproofing. 


To answer the above questions: 


1) As you have not said how long and at what temp you're proofing, I'm safe with that statement.  :)  Have you added up the "warm" proofing hours?  Three hours before cold retarding seems too short to me.   I've never been able to match Hamelman's hours, always needed more time.  Also the darn yeasties seem to know when the seasons change, sun hours or amount of random electrons shooting thru the air or something, and will need longer to ferment as the days get shorter.  (Be warned: In spring they take advantage of the situation reversing the phenomenon thus reducing your rising times and overproofing your loaves.)


Add some more proofing time to all the steps, especially the warm up out of the fridge.  Warm hands help a lot to warm up the dough, fold slowly and gently so as not to tear it. 


Start by tacking on another half hour to each phase, if the loaves are still bursting, go back to your regular proofing schedule but add an hour to the before fridge time where small changes have the greatest influence.


3) Misting? Yup, all 3.   Use your own judgement.  If you don't make the dough drippy, it  helps a lot!  (and seeds stick better!)


Mini

rossnroller's picture
rossnroller

Thanks a lot. Will do as you suggest and report back.


Cheers!
R

Yerffej's picture
Yerffej

Looking at the photos and reading the entire thread I would say that your very first reply from Andy is correct .


The loaf is underproofed.


Jeff


p.s. I think that you will find Andy's advice to generally be of a very high quality

rossnroller's picture
rossnroller

I will carefully work through all your ideas as I investigate in coming bakes, until such time as I've identified the problem and its remedy. Will report back when I have some significant findings.


Cheers
Ross

ehanner's picture
ehanner

It's hard to say it is over proofed but just on one end. I still think this has to do with handling technique. Your last image is remarkable in that the energy is bursting from the interior. It isn't even distribution through out the loaf. I think the change you made to your stretch and fold process is causing you to create a tight outer cloak which, when it fails, results in a herniated bulge as the interior try's to escape the pressure.


I know in my own case I have found that I have been working way to hard at adding tension in the outer gluten bands. I've been over working the dough. Since I recognized this from watching videos of several master bakers, my breads have a better shape.


Eric

Yerffej's picture
Yerffej

Eric,


While I agree that handling can most definitely be a factor here, the bigger piece of the pie appears to be underproofing.  The loaf is simply expanding (bursting) at the point of least resistance.


Then too the oven becomes a factor with air flow patterns and hot or cold spots.  Add to this the bias in scoring wherein no two scores are exactly alike.  While handling, scoring and the oven are factors, they are minor when compared with underproofing. 


These are nice looking breads and I would guess that Ross has more than just a little experience in all facets of bread making.  He states that this problem began "suddenly" which means something changed.  That something has apparently led to underproofed loaves.


Jeff

ehanner's picture
ehanner

I agree on a convection oven there could easily be an issue with air flow. I'm not sure if there was a change that would case this.



Eric's suggestion that I might be overdeveloping the dough. It's true, actually, that fairly recently I've changed from S&Fs once hourly during the bulk proof to twice hourly. Not sure if this has coincided exactly with the bursting problem, but I've gotta look at over development as a real possibility - thanks Eric!



Mini thinks he is over proofing, you seem to think it's under proofing. The only thing that changed that we know about is the stretch and fold scheme. I have over and under proofed loaves to the extreme and never had a series of blow outs like Ross has had. You are correct that Ross is an advanced baker. That's why this is such a mystery.


 


Eric

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

No, I think underproofing.  (Did I screw up somewhere?)


Mini

hansjoakim's picture
hansjoakim

Mini wrote:
Ok, the starter is pampered, that leaves underproofing.

Pretty clear! :)

ehanner's picture
ehanner

My bad, she did say "under proofed", which only makes sense. Don't know what I was thinking.


 


Eric

rossnroller's picture
rossnroller

...the same result!!! Would post a pic, but image upload appears inactive on TFL right now. Suffice it to say, appearance is similar to pic in my 26 May post.


Bulk proof: 4 hours
Overnight retard in fridge: 8 hours
Warm-up out of fridge: 2 hours
Pre-shape rest period: 15 mins
Post-shape final proof: 2 hours


I think most would agree these proof times are long enough to ensure the dough was not underproofed. NB: Current inside temps here range from 15-22C (60-72F).


I did a poke test prior to scoring and loading dough, and could feel gassiness beneath the surface through my fingertip. The dough rebounded fast, so that no fingertip impression was left within a couple of seconds. Does this give any clues as to what might be going on, I wonder?


Also, I went back to S&Fs hourly (instead of twice per hour) - did 3 in all during bulk proof period, and one more on removing dough from fridge after overnight retardation.


I spritzed the dough to make sure it didn't dry out (as per Mini's advice) and draped with plastic inside plastic container with lid on during bulk proof. So...



  • Increased proof periods - check.

  • Decreased S&Fs - check

  • Spritzed loaf during bulk proof - check

  • Ensured scoring was even - although, I scored more lightly (tentatively might be a better word) than usual...having a bit of a crisis of confidence now, I must admit!


I'm at a loss. My shaping methd hasn't changed, steaming method hasn't changed, flour brands and types haven't changed, ditto formulae.


That leaves Hans' suggested possibility - milling differences in flours. OR, maybe my starters are particularly robust and I need to decrease the proportion of starter in my formulae?? Is 'ADD starter syndrome' even a possiblity?


Could this loaf have been OVERproofed, perhaps? No, that's not logical given the slash-burst...


This has got me beat, and a little dispirited. I could change to slashing lengthwise down the centre of the dough and it would probably bloom beautifully, but that's only an aesthetic solution...


BTW, this bread had a very nice crumb, a little more open than I usually get, and the flavour was very good. So, eating quality seems fine.


Will try again with the Norwich rye, which until now has been my most reliable bread, and report back.


Cheers all
Ross


 

Davo's picture
Davo

Ross, when you say those times should avoid underproof, I couldn't be sure. If you said the levain/sourdough was 30% or more of the bread dough, I'd say probably (although not necessarily at the lower end of the temp range - more like 15C when out of the fridge). If you said your levain was say only 10% of final bread dough, then I'd say you would more than likely be underproving. ratios, temperatures and times (as well as levain/starter maturity/ripeness) are all related - you can't judge one without knowing all the others!


FWIW, I make SD with a similar bulk ferment time except that I shape the laves and then retard in banettons. Anyway, the point is that while my temps and times are generally pretty consistent, I always go by dough condition. And that sometimes mean I can be anywhere from: bake straight out of fridge, to warm up for 2-3 hours. It can depend on how cold the fridge is, what you are warming it up in (eg a cold, big thermal mass glass bowl, maybe inside a nice insulating (i.e. keeping it cold) placcy bag to stop it from drying out, or whatever), how warm a spot you are puttin it in, etc etc. Therefore I pay more attention to the poke test and (because I have become used to it) size of the loaves.


My suggestion: rather than consider you have taken it all the way with degree of proving, I would observe that you haven't yet got to "obviously overproved". Stretch it out further until you push that boundary and THEN bring it back, using the poke test (generally) as your key guide.


BTW one thing I have observed is that the poke test can be a bit or a weird animal. If you do it to the room temp loaf just after shaping - when quite small - it may not spring that much. After you warm it and it's prety ripe and doesn't spring, if you even briefly cool the loaf in the fridge (because you are worried it has overproved) it can "regain" some spring! I'm not saying that makes it magically become "less proved", just that you need to understand that while the poke test is probably the best indicator, it too can have some slightly unexpected variable results.

ananda's picture
ananda

Hi Ross,


Davo is saying some good things above.   His comments on the poke test seem to make sense.


I think we need to see your formula to make sense of the problem.


As you describe it, the loaf still seems to be underproved.


I think the amount of pre-fermented flour you are using could have significance, in that it is bound to gave significant bearing on the proof time.


The idea to push the boundary, and prove to the limit is really good.   Why don't you make 3 loaves all of the same batch, and subject each one to a different proof time.   You could say, do 2, 3 and 4 hours?


Keep going buddy; this is a problem which can be solved


Best wishes


Andy

rossnroller's picture
rossnroller

Why don't you make 3 loaves all of the same batch, and subject each one to a different proof time.   You could say, do 2, 3 and 4 hours?

Are you referring to the final proof or bulk proof? I assume final, but just want to be sure.


Cheers
R

rossnroller's picture
rossnroller

It's pathetic, but I really feel I need this support you are giving (and that goes for everyone who has contributed comments to this thread). I've been thrilled with my baking since the beginning, hardly able to believe that I could turn out of my home oven bread of the sort of quality I have been seeking - in vain - ever since my time in Germany in the 80s. Although I have always had the attitude that as the baker I am a mere medium for prior received knowledge, and that therefore credit is due to those who have come so long before me, to the experienced folk on this great forum and my other SD 'home' who have effectively been my mentors, and to the hardworking and quite magical little yeast creatures that came when I summoned them with my flour and water paste, I realise now that there has been more ego in my baking than I cared to admit to myself.


This current crisis of confidence has smacked any hubris I might have been harbouring right outta me - and probably a good thing, too! The bread gods had been smiling upon me for too long, and I had become a bit complacent - perhaps cocky, even.


So, consider me duly humbled.


Now, to your sensible requests, gentlemen, re my formulae. I have had this bursting problem with 3 different formulae, including old faithful - Hamelman's Norwich Rye - but the recent bakes have been with my own formula for pain au levain. When I say "my own", I mean I've tweaked a basic SD recipe to come out how I like it. The recipe in baker percentages is as follows:



  • flour 100% (70% bakers' flour; 28% plain [or AP] flour; 2% wholegrain wholemeal)

  • starter 30% (100% hydration starter, including 30% whole-grain rye)

  • water 60%

  • salt 1.5% (NB: lower than standard by choice)


All flours I use are stoneground biodynamic/organic, grown locally, apart from the plain flour, which is unbleached and organic, and off the supermarket shelves. The water I use is filtered tap water, the salt pure sea salt.


I will take your advice to stretch the proof times to the limit, then back off to just below it. I guess with the temps here getting coldest over the next 3 months, I can expect proofing times to increase further.


Have noted your comments on the poke test, Davo - thanks.


Cheers and thanks again - most sincerely - for the continued support.
Ross

ananda's picture
ananda

Hi Ross,


Yes, I meant final proof.


My other suggestion is to consider increasing the amount of pre-fermented flour you use; ie increase the proprtion of starter in the final dough.


From your figures above you have 15 parts of pre-fermented flour to 115 parts total flour [15 starter + 100 dough].   This makes 13%.   I would experiment with increasing this amount.   The key parameter in the end will be the taste and flavour YOU like in your bread.   Too much pre-ferment and the flavour will be too strong for you.   However, I reckon you could increase the pre-ferment element and still produce a flavour you like a lot.    My theory is to try and speed up dough rheology through increased acid and enzymatic activity, and maybe, introduce more yeasts into the medium too.


As with extending the final proof times; you should experiment somewhat.   If you do increase the pre ferment, you may find your interim proof could be shortened, but that is something you should monitor along the way.


I do have another thought up my sleeve but try this first.   If it doesn't work come back to me and kick me for a reminder of my thoughts at this stage.   They are to do with your leaven not having enough acidity in it.


As for hubris; we have ALL been there; let me assure you.   Jeffrey Hamelman certainly writes about it; see his fantastic passage "Artist or Artisan?", especially the latter section.   I'll bet Yozza will testify to having had rubbish days toiling away in the bakery in days gone by.   I've had some killer times in the past, believe me.   You do have to balance the difficulties with the amazing and sublime occasions.   It is a journey, and a constant learning path.   Enjoy it, and remember you are in a place where you get support not available anywhere else...all freely and geneorously given by loads of people, equally committed and keen as you.


Best wishes


Andy

Yerffej's picture
Yerffej

"The dough rebounded fast, so that no fingertip impression was left within a couple of seconds. Does this give any clues as to what might be going on, I wonder?"


Yes, this is a big clue.  Your loaves are underproofed.


Jeff

rossnroller's picture
rossnroller

You're the only one of the folk who have responded to this thread who has stated categorically from your first comment that the loaves ARE underproofed. You might well be correct, but I can tell you that in the time I've been baking bread, including during this month last year, I have never had this current problem and have never tried proof times as long as with this recent bake. It seems strange, therefore, that if this is a simple matter of underproofing, my breads have shown no symptoms at all until now. I, too, was regarding underproofing as the main culprit, but since this latest bake I am less certain.


Andy and Davo's recent suggestion that I push the proof times to the point of overproofing, then pull it back, makes most sense as a means of - er - proving (word of the moment) whether proofing times are the factor responsible for my current bursting problems. We shall see...but I am remaining open-minded until I have more evidence to go on.


Cheers
R

Yerffej's picture
Yerffej

It is curious how every little thing we do in life is reflected in every little thing we do in life.


While the underlying cause of underproofing might remain a mystery, quite obviously something has changed.  I would suggest that you forget all you know, or do not know,  about properly proofed dough and start at square one.  This is not to imply that you do not know what you are doing, but sometimes we all need to stop and take a full accounting.  That moment appears to be here for you, with regard to dough and proofing.  This too shall pass....and in the meantime, happy baking,


Jeff

gary.turner's picture
gary.turner

Don't take the subject line personally; how to solicit help is something few people are versed in.  I offer my very small pearls of wisdom only because in the real world, I'm a web site trouble shooter, a fixer.  The most common mistake my clients make is to want to solve their issues in a predetermined way.  Hell, if they knew what it would take to fix it, they wouldn't be paying me to do it.


In the case of your exploding bread, it has been suggested that the shaped dough is not quite ready for the oven.  You even described the rapid rebound on the poke test—a classic symptom of under-proofing—and yet you resist, insistent that nothing changed to cause under-proofing.  But, there is also the note that temperatures are cooler in your work area.  If I recall correctly, a 17℉ (about 9½℃) change of temps will  double or halve the required time depending on whether it's rising or falling.  My own kitchen can quite easily vary 35℉ or more from summer to winter, and depending on what else is going on.  That delta T causes a four-fold change in rise time.


Even if the final rise is found not to be the problem, you must go through the steps exactly as suggested by the knowledgeable bakers here. Only if they know that their suggestions were followed religiously can they  move on to the next step in their trouble shooting.


Now for my suggestion:  Measure, and write down the ambient and internal dough temperatures throughout the mixing, kneading, fermentation, refrigerated retard, pre-shaping, resting, shaping and final proofing; from the start to the end of each phase.  If you don't know where you started, it's hard to get where you're going.


cheers,


gary

rossnroller's picture
rossnroller

In the case of your exploding bread, it has been suggested that the shaped dough is not quite ready for the oven.  You even described the rapid rebound on the poke test—a classic symptom of under-proofing—and yet you resist, insistent that nothing changed to cause under-proofing.

I'm not "insistent" - which implies a degree of defensiveness and stubbornness. I'm merely puzzled by this sudden bursting phenomenon and stating the facts as best as I can determine them.


As you would know, one of the factors that often causes misinterpretation and miscommunication in written discourse on the web is that a writer's tone is partly hostage to the receiver's perception. I can assure you, however my posts are coming across in tone to you, I am open to all advice, and am well aware I have nothing to gain from recalcitrance. I am also very grateful to ALL who have answered my call for help - I have stated this and re-stated it. And I mean it!


I also mean it when I state that until the evidence is in, I am not convinced that underproofing is the factor responsible for this bursting thing...my poke test is surely a good indication of underproofing, but is it definitive? I can't tell until I've done some bakes with longer proof times that do not burst through the slashes.


That position would seem perfectly reasonable and rational to me, and if you think not, please point out how. Conversely, insisting that underproofing is certainly the problem even before the poke test while there are other possible factors at play seems other than entirely rational to me. Remaining open to whatever the evidence exposes in no way demeans those who hold the opinion that underproofing is certainly the problem - and it doesn't even imply that I do not regard underproofing as the most probable factor myself!


My tone does not indicate defensiveness or recalcitrance; rather, I am merely puzzled that I wasn't having this current problem at this time last year when the ambient temps were similar, or even later in the winter when they were lower, yet were applying the same proof times as now to the same formulae (at least, in the case of the Norwich Rye) using the same brands of flour. The only emotional resonance that should be read into my tone here is bewilderment and perhaps some frustration at the way my previously respectable breads are now mutating in the oven!


Please be assured, as previously stated, I appreciate and have carefully noted all advice and am applying it bit by bit, which is the only way I can, since I am not baking every day. I would if I could - but with other commitments I just don't have the time.


Cheers
Ross

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

As I whisper in your cyber ear...  Try delaying the addition of salt.  Add it in an hour after mixing up your dough with warm water.  Give the enzymes and beasties the chance to make it up to you!


Another thing you could try is mix up the dough (the way you've always done) a little later than normal and not refrigerate it.  If your place is as cold as you say, it is being retarded when left out.  :)  I've seen a chart somewhere with temps and how much a few degrees too cool can add lots of proofing time.  (where is that chart?) 


Mini


Hey that's interesting, Andy (see below)!  I was looking for this... http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/5381/sourdough-rise-time-table


 

rossnroller's picture
rossnroller

Thanks Mini! Next bake, I'll try leaving the dough out overnight instead of bunging it in the fridge and see what happens. Will report back.


Your salt addition delay suggestion duly noted, also.


Ta for that link! Veeery interesting.


Cheers
R

ananda's picture
ananda

I was always taught that for every 1*C rise in temperature gas generation increases by 3%


So temperature is an incredibly significant factor, potentially.


I'm thinking Jeff's line in underproof is basically correct.   However, the underlying reason for it is somewhat more complex.


Best wishes


Andy

rossnroller's picture
rossnroller

That means that during summer, when the inside temp in my kitchen gets as high as 34C or even more, compared to now - when it's, say, 18C - gas generation has decreased almost 50%! Going on that, I should be doubling my proof times at the moment, correct?


It's still got me buggered why I wasn't having any probs this time last year, but I was trying different breads all the time then. That brings me to a new strategy: I think I'll restrict my current proof experiments to the Norwich Rye, which is one I have been making all the way through. That way, I can maximise the chances that I'm comparing apples with apples, as least as far as the formula is concerned.


Cheers
R

ananda's picture
ananda

Hi Ross,


Yes, sticking to the one loaf is a good move.


Make temperature your first port of call if you like.


I think you are adopting a very open mind in tackling your problem.


For what its worth,at a fundamental level, I think your problem is down to underproof.


HOWEVER, that is a fairly easy diagnosis.   What is not aso easy is to determine the root cause.   This is why you need to experiment, and not close yourself off to anything.   You appear most wise to me.


So, yes, go with the one formula, and concentrate on temperatures and proof times.


Then look at levels of pre-fermented flour.


If you are still stuck, I'd be tempted at letting your starter get sour in order to accumulate more acid.   Then subject it to refreshment before re-embarking on your big bread journey.


Stick in there, and have a good read of Hamelman on pp.86


All good wishes


Andy 

rossnroller's picture
rossnroller

And as it happens, I have left my starter out, unfed, for 3 days, hoping that the increased acidity might be a good thing. Reading that this is in line with your thinking gives me some sense that I'm on the right track with this. Just gave it a late-night feed and will make up another bread dough tomorrow night. Then, we shall see...!


Cheers
R

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

oven coil burnout...  loaves too close together in the oven...  Oven fan turning itself on  when not looking... carefully observe your oven, bread baking is hard on home ovens and they do wear out faster.


Maybe time for a poolish or instant yeasted bread for a break, a favorite before sourdough dominated.  I know I've gone there when particulars drove me crazy (and it's easier than catching elves!) 


News flash (Roll with me on this one):


I've discovered (don't ask me how) that indeed your problem is an elf called Ruben.  A notorious little galago and just as cute, a real "ladies man."  Ruben was taking holiday in your area about the time this all started, he sent a postcard that he "smelled your bread and decided to stay."  My elves send humble greetings but would like him back to complete their poker circle.  They add and I quote, "Give him a swift kick in his bread buns, send him on his way!"  Save for my presence, they would've used stronger language.  Feel free to expound and punctuate as you please.  The post card had chewn ears, don't know if that is from yours or mine but there are obvious dart holes scattered over Barrack Square.


:)  Mini


 

rossnroller's picture
rossnroller

I won't ask how you know what you know, but I will say that if I catch Ruben I'll gather up those dart holes from Barrack Square and redistribute them on his cute lil galago bread buns or thereabouts. He messes with my breads, I mess with him. Although, come to think about it, I know not what dastardly elfin karmic consequences I might bring upon myself, so I might just beg him to go bug someone else. Or perhaps just point out that I happen to know - and I won't divulge my source - that his poker circle is put out by his absence, along with giving him an earnest assurance that he has caused maximum disruption in my kitchen, that I am waving the white flag with eyes rolling around like a mad bull's, and that therefore his work with me is done.


Now that the real issue is, hopefully, dealt with, I can say that I always bake with the convection fan off and have not noticed any wayward behaviour with the oven - for what that's worth. And yeah, I'm eyeing off a spiked sourdough Italian bread of DMSnyder's that I haven't made for quite a while - if the oven behaviour of the next two or so SD bakes do not return to normal, I may seek temporary respite in that. Or Reinhart's pugliese...that's a yeasted bread I'm fond of. AH, I feel better now. Nice counselling!


Cheers!
R

H20loo's picture
H20loo

to keep up with this thread as a less than novice baker- but I did get up to speed when i read Minis last post. Ross, I will continue to follow for your resolution.

rossnroller's picture
rossnroller

Yes, my exploding bread issues aside, the elite TFL troubleshooting squad has provided some excellent info in this thread. I hope the resolution comes soon. I'm pretty confident it's not far off now. Whatever, the support from this generous and knowledgeable community has been warming.


Cheers
Ross

Porkbutter's picture
Porkbutter

 

Ross,

I see that in both of your photos, the bursting occurs on what appears to be  the lighter side of the loaf, not the darker side. This could just be the effect of the camera, so I could just be shooting in the dark here.  Not to mention, my oven is hotter at the back without ever having caused this bursting. 

Still, could you be tossing the loaves into a hotter spot in the oven? That also makes me wonder - is your oven cooking at the same temperatures as before? Do you use an oven thermometer?

 

rossnroller's picture
rossnroller

A bit of the contrast you observe is photographic rather than actual, but to be honest I don't think the oven is a factor. There's been no indication of any change in the oven in other baking, and I rotate my breads during the bake in any case. Thanks for the thought, though.


Cheers
Ross

rossnroller's picture
rossnroller

Hi folks. I did a bake today (Norwich Rye) that worked out well.


 



 



There is still a bit of cracking beyond the middle slash, and the expansion of each slash was not equal, but the bread rose evenly and the eating quality was as good as I've ever experienced with this bread. Which means superb!  I made a few significant modifications to my process, all suggested by contributors to this thread:



  • Andy suggested increasing the acidity of the starter by leaving it out without a feed for a while, and as it happened, I had done just this since the previous bake, hoping that a few days without feeding might alter things. I was working by feel, but Andy's suggestion gave me the reason behind the strategy, as well as the confidence to go ahead with that part of the experiment.

  • As per Mini's suggestion, increased autolyse (50 minutes).

  • Also as per Mini's suggestion (and Andy's in a PM exchange he kindly initiated), I left dough out overnight instead of 'retarding' in fridge.

  • Effectively, then, my bulk proof period was 8 hours. Temps ranged from 16-19C during this time.

  • Increased final proof to 2.5 hours. Poke test was promising - dough slowly rebounded, rather than springing straight back. I was a little concerned that I might have gone a bit far and overproofed the dough, because it was slacker than usual at the stage of loading it for baking...but the rise was excellent, and the crumb pretty good in the finished bread, so I don't think the final proof was too long.


So, while it's not possible without further baking and testing to categorically identify all of the above factors as making the crucial difference to this bake, clearly something has worked. I don't think there's much doubt that the extended proofing times were highly significant, so well done to all the folk who diagnosed underproofing as the main issue - and thanks again to all of you for contributing so generously. A truly warming response from my point of view.


This bursting issue has a real upside for me. Yes, it has been frustrating and humbling, but it's forced me back to some rigour in my bread baking, and I've learnt a lot from you guys - lessons I didn't think I needed until my bread protested otherwise!


If I had to sum up my learning in a single pithy sentence, it would be - to paraphrase PMcCool - to watch the bread rather than the clock. I see now I was imposing a simple time-based methodology on an organic process that depends on many factors outside mere clock-measured time. I was aware intellectually that the bread baking process is a changeable thing, but complacency had distracted me from that awareness.


I don't necessarily think that this bursting issue is completely resolved - today's bread wasn't perfect. However, I suspect that inconsistent slashing may have been the main factor in the uneven slash expansion in today's loaf (I did note the middle slash was a bit deeper than the others right after I'd done the scoring). I've gotten too tentative with my scoring since this bursting thing started out of fear of exacerbating the problem, and I suspect I'm scoring too lightly some of the time now.


I'm quietly confident that by applying the modifications bulleted above and the other knowledge you guys have imparted in this high-personal-stake context - which has been more meaningful to me than, say, reading through a book by one of the gurus - I'll be OK from here. (Hello mojo - where ya beeeen?!! xxx000)


The next few bakes will tell...


Very big cheers all!
Ross

hadi's picture
hadi

hye there ross, i don't know if this problem of yours is still bothering you, but i'll share my exp working in a local bakery with you...as this problem of yours is considering a normal if you work in a local bakery...i have to say that the main reason for your problem is lie within the shaping process...i mean you have to check if your dough seam side is properly face down, and if it's not tight properly on one side of the dough, the score on your bread will burst out unevently...


 


 

rossnroller's picture
rossnroller

...it was definitely an under-proofing problem in my case. It took a while for me to be convinced, but the good folk on this thread were correct. I ended up having to push out the proof times a long way before I resolved the problem.


That was in winter, and the ambient temps were quite low: 12C on some days/nights, perhaps even lower on occasions.


Now it's very warm here, so I've had to greatly reduce my proof times. Last night I was proofing a pain de campagne at a room temp of 32C - needed only 1.5 hours BP, and when I baked it this morning after retarding in the fridge overnight, it showed some signs of slight OVERproofing!


The adjustment never stops, but that's part of home baking.


Anyway, thanks for your input. While I think I can safely outrule shaping as an issue in this case, I have no doubt that poor or careless shaping can - as you state - have a similar effect to overproofing in making bread susceptible to bursting during the bake.


Cheers
Ross