The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Old Newbie

debrose's picture

Old Newbie

I've been growing Poppa Bear for about 8 weeks. He has spawned Mama Bear, they in turn created Baby Bear, and a combination of all created Gen 3. I haven't used Baby or Gen 3 yet, but have some questions about Poppa...

This was a very simple, Emeril starter recipe - flour, water, yeast, sugar. For feeding, I've been using equal parts warm spring water and AP flour. Although I think I should be feeding more often (this is stored in the fridge), Poppa has been working pretty dependably for a straight-forward recipe - starter, bread flour, salt. A few weeks ago, we tried a whole-wheat version (subbed half the bread flour with whole-wheat) and, again, it seemed to rise preperly, although was a little close-grained after baking.

The other day, we experimented adding 1 T honey to the mix, plus a little extra AP flour as Poppa seemed kind of runny (I'm reading how to correct that currently). It seemed to have doubled (finger-poke). When it went into the oven it absolutely exploded. We bake on stones (unglazed tiles from Lowe's - awesome find!). I slashed the top, but the side actually split - a lot. That I'm sure can be corrected with deeper slashes on top. Again, though, the grain was VERY close.

Not being patient enough? It did grow in during the rise - oh yeah, this is a single-rise method. Any thoughts?

I baked bread a life-time ago, and have rediscovered the joy of having that fresh loaf come out of the oven. In the past few months, I have learned a lot - city water kills yeast, I ALWAYS used too much flour in that former life, and fresh-baked bread still makes my hips grow.




Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

what you're trying to say.   Do you want a more open crumb?  Mini Oven

Mike Avery's picture
Mike Avery

Personally, I don't recommend using bakers yeast to start a starter, but it's certainly dead by now.  I also don't recommend putting anything in the starter but flour and water.  It makes control easier.


That said, the explosion in the oven is called oven spring.  There are a number of explanations.  Some think the yeast, or sourdough, are having a last mad orgy of co2 production as they warm up.  Other's think the oven temperature is causing the co2 that is trapped in the dough to expand.  Whatever.


The part that is rarely disputed is that oven spring comes about when dough has not been allowed to fully rise.  A fully risen loaf rarely has much oven spring.

Whether oven spring is good or bad is a matter of taste.  The French feel that dough matures as it ferments, and that if you have lots of oven spring, you didn't get the full taste out of the flour and other ingredients and into the bread.  Many Americans like the way a loaf that exploded looks.

In any case, I'd work on getting your starter into a stable condition so you'll have a better idea of how long it will take to raise a loaf, and how much to use to get the rise you want.  And then I'd let the loaves rise a bit more.

I had this happen a lot in sourdough classes I taught... we'd use too much starter so the class could be over on-time.  And the loaves would tear themselves apart.  Now, I use a more appropriate amount of starter and class is over when class is over.



BROTKUNST's picture

I think I kind of lost you on the whole 'Poppa Bear' trail but I agree with Mike that water and flour is enough to get a barm going .. One may consider raisins or something to introduce some bacteria but sugar would not be on my list of considerations. Sugar is actually counterproductive for the yeast development. Sugar is at times added to a dough to sweeten the loaf or to promote a caramelization of the crust .. those formulas have to compensate for the effect of the sugar by adding more yeast.

The 'explosion' you describes comes of course from the fact that you dough still wanted to expand when it formed already a crust ... there is an array of possibilities that could create a situation like that. One of the reason could be that the stone (or tiles) was still too cold, delaying the ovenspring (a combination of shortlived more intense bacteria activity and the expansion of trapped gas bubbles before the gluten geletanizes) while the crust was already forming in a dry oven. The drying of the crust can be delayed by steaming the environment or by using a fire proof cover (e.g. La Cloche). Also if there is any chance that your dough did not have the same temperature all the way through (cold ingredients, lack of folding and fermentation time) you also may end up with an imbalance of expansion and crust development. Improper scoring may also let the expansion go it's own way ... On top of that, if you bake more than one loaf at a time, you'll have a lower temperature between the loafs - leading one or both possibly to 'explode' towards each other. Same applies when anything else is heating up next to your loaf.

Well, these are just some thoughts ...


debrose's picture

I'm thinking I need to start growing a new starter. Again, I used a recipe I found from Emeril.

 The first straight forwards loaves were's during the experimentation that it just isn't working.

 I'll work on adding some moisture to the environment. I make sure the oven is preheated fully (thermometer on the stones). And, probably need to be a bit more patient. If I think it's fully risen...wait some more!

 Thanks for the tips!