The Fresh Loaf

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Rubbery bread texture

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rm1211's picture
rm1211

Rubbery bread texture

Hi,

I have been experimetning with sourdough for a wee while now and I feel I'm doing quite well.

I can now bake a bread that rises and has the crisp crust I'm looking for, it has a nice open crumb and good flavour.

However, the texture leaves something to be desired. I'm not sure how to describe it - it's slightly rubbery or spongy. Not unpleasant, but not quite right. The loaf is airy enough.

I've been experimenting with some factors and just wondered if anyone could point me in the right direction?

Could I be over or under kneading the dough? Could I be over or under proofing it?  

One clue that may or may not help - I checked it in the oven after about 25 mins and it appeared larger than when I took it out (ten/fifteen mins later). This may have just been my imagination.

The method I use (alternatives welcome) :

First I take 4oz of 100% hydrated starter and add to it 2oz flour and 1 oz water. I mix and leavfe on the counter overnight. This gives me a bubbly mixture in the morning to which  add 8oz flour, 4oz water, a hefty pinch of salt and a good glug of olive oil. I then mix and knead until smooth and elastic (by hand ten minutes - maybe fifteen). I place this in an oiled bowl and leave in the fridge overnight. I then remove from the fridge and gentle form (in this case into a boule). I don't have a proofing basket so I use a floured cloth in a colander (seems to work). I leave until the dough appears to have doubled in size (around 2 hours today). 

I then place onto a baking stone in a relatively hot oven (400 degrees), bit of ice in the bottom for steam and cook for around 40 minutes.

As above - the crust is crisp and perfect, the crumb is airy with large holes but the actual 'flesh' is a bit chewy/rubbery/spongy/something.

Any thoughts? I think it may be in the proofing stage but I am getting abit out of my depth.

Thanks for any help you can offer. 

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

That may have as much, perhaps more, influence on the texture of the baked bread as the other factors you are considering.  Does it have a fairly high protein content?  Since you are including olive oil in your bread, I would have expected a softer crumb rather than a tough crumb.

Your formula contains 2+2+8 = 12 ounces of flour and 2+1+4 = 7 ounces of water.  That's just a shade over 58% hydration.  Not dry, but definitely not swimming in water.  A higher hydration might get you closer to the texture you desire.  Try bumping the water content up to 7.5 ounces for the next bake.  If it still seems chewier than you want, try bumping the water up to 8 ounces for the following bake.  

How much flour would you estimate that you work into the dough during kneading?  Every gram you add will drive the hydration downward and that generally leads to a firmer bread.  By way of comparison, bagels are typically around 50% hydration.

Then again, what degree of firmness/chewiness do you want in a bread?  Something closer to marshmallows?  Something more like vollkornbrot?  

I don't see anything in your process that should lead to excessive chewiness.  The fact that you get an open crumb after 10-15 minutes of kneading is a bit surprising, particularly at that hydration level.  One usually winds up with a very uniform crumb, think sandwich bread, with that length of kneading.

Anyway, ideas for you to consider.  Best of luck.

Paul

jcking's picture
jcking

Try baking a loaf without the olive oil and compare.

Jim

thomaschacon75's picture
thomaschacon75

What's the temperature of the loaf when you remove it from the oven?

This could be an oversimplification of your problem, but if it's the texture I think you mean, it might be caused by underbaking. You want something in the 205-210 F range for final loaf temperature. If it only gets to 195-205, then it'll have a rubbery texture. You can always turn off the heat and leave the loaf in the oven for 5-10 more minutes.

(Loaves enriched with fats like olive oil, in my experience, are more prone to this texture than other breads, though I don't know exactly why.)

maojn's picture
maojn

Hi, I am wondering the science behind what you said? Why the baking temperature too low will result in a more rubbery texture? Thank you very much.

clazar123's picture
clazar123

I concur with PMcCool about the extra water. You may experience a better quality crumb with a little extra wate-esp since you are doing an overnight in the refrigerator. The water is totally absorbed by the flour so you have to make sure you have enough in there. And do watch the amount of flour you add during the kneading as it can greatly affect the outcome.

 I also need to ask about your flour. Is this an all purpose flour?Bread flour? Whole meal? Each handles water a little differently and has a different protein content. A high gluten content may cause some chewiness to the crumb.

I don't believe the oil will affect the loaf that greatly, unless by "a good glug" you are talking about a lot of oil. I use about 1-3 tablespoons per 3 cups flour.

Another thought is the proofing. Does the dough rise in the refrigerator for you? Do you allow it to rise to double before you shape into a boule? The loaf may benefit from being allowed to do that.

A final thought is if the loaf is completely baked, as suggested by thomaschacon75. A quick read thermometer is a very handy tool to have.

So-a few things to try.

Have delicious fun!

 

clazar123's picture
clazar123

You briefly mentioned a possibility that the loaf shrunk:

One clue that may or may not help - I checked it in the oven after about 25 mins and it appeared larger than when I took it out (ten/fifteen mins later). This may have just been my imagination.

That is a fairly classic sign of overproofing the loaf. If it is very overproofed, it can even balloon up and then collapse in on itself. Once you have shaped the boule, it does not have to double itself. It may only need 15030 min at room temp tobe fully proofed. Use the search box to look up "finger poke test" or "poke test".  I think a few posters even have pictures, which are helpful.

rm1211's picture
rm1211

Hi,

Thanks for all the suggestions. To answer some of the questions...

@PmcCool : I'm in the UK and we don't have anything called 'All Purpose' - I imagine we call it 'plain' flour. I use Allinson Strong White Bread Flour (which the label says is 12.1% protein).

I add very little bench flour as I'm quite used to working with higher hydration yeasted dough when I make pizza. So I don't think that this would have an effect. But I will try it at a higher hydration.

I'm looking for a loaf that has large holes - what we call an Italian loaf here in Glasgow - something like a more rigid ciabatta I suppose. I'm open minded about this though - I really just want something to rival the bread I can get at the local bakery. Certainly not rubbery :-) 

@jcking : I'm going to try one without the oil - but would that not tend to make the crumb less tender?  I've not had a chance to look, but I'd love to find an article on what all the additives people use will do to bread (oil, milk, semolina, etc) - once this reply is posted I'll get on to that :-)

@thomaschacon75 : You might have a really good point there. I currently have no money - so a thermometer will have to wait. I may try baking the next one for longer. The problem ones have had around 45 minutes in a hot oven so I'd have /thought/ they'd be fully baked but it makes sense.

What actually happens if they are slightly undercooked? Would the crumb collapse ?

 @clazar123 : As above, I'm using a strong white bread flour wth protein content of 12.1%. For the whole recipe I'm probably using 1 and 1/2 tablespoons of oil - I think this should be OK. 

The dough definitely rises to double in the fridge - in fact, I've wondered about that too. Ideally, I'd like to slow that down even further, but my fridge can't go any colder without beginning to freeze things. Maybe its particuarly hardy yeast we have here :-) 

I'm still not /entirely/ sure that it did balloon up in the oven (may have been an optical illusion, or me getting over optimistic), but I will monitor it properly this time and see.

 

Thanks again everyone. 

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

At 12.1% protein, that's a good, strong bread flour.  Such flours tend to produce firmer and chewier bread than do "weaker" flours with lower protein content.  You might want to try mixing various proportions of your bread flour with plain flour to see how that changes the crumb texture.

We've given you so many "maybes" that you will be a while working through the different possibilities.  Do try to change just one thing at a time, though, so that you know what inputs were different and how the output was affected.  Keep notes, too.  If your brain works at all like mine, a short pencil beats a long memory any day.

Paul

nicodvb's picture
nicodvb

Paul,. I agree with your observations. I'd like to point out that substituting the firm preferment with a high hydratation poolish (150% maybe?) could solve his problems.

tsaint's picture
tsaint

I totally know what you're talking about, the crust is nice and the crumb looks awesome, but it's chewy and shiny and gummy.. just a little weird. Some of my breads have been turning out that way ever since I used the Tartine bread book. I actually haven't figure out why yet.. though yesterday I made a rye bread and it was really really shiny/gummy and what I noticed is that my dough was really wet. Perhaps a little less water.. maybe a little more kneading? I'll experiment with this too! Let me know what you find out 

rm1211's picture
rm1211

You've hit the nail on the head - it's slightly shiny and gummy. 

I'll keep you posted (although it might take a while to work throught all the above suggestions). I might try a completely different recipe and see what happens. Let me know if you find the solution. 

phxdog's picture
phxdog

As I read your post, I got hungry. For some reason, that is the description of the sourdough texture I loved the most as a kid in San Francisco. I've been trying to duplicate that slightly gummy, shiny look and feel you describe. It was really sour and actually had a bit of a rubbery quality. Maybe my folks used to buy bread from a amaturish bakery or something! Anyway, this thread had given me a few ideas to 'reverse engineeer' my way towards the bread I remember.

Good luck in your quest to produce a more traditional loaf!

Phxdog

ehanner's picture
ehanner

After reading the thread to this point,  you have many thoughts to consider. Paul's suggestion of slightly higher water to get you above 60 or 65% would be my first change as far as the ingredients are concerned.  There are three other things that haven't been mentioned that you should consider.

First, if you add the oil at the beginning of the mix, the gluten formation is interfered with and the result is you don't get the same strength as if you first hydrate the flour and then add the fat after the gluten strands have been established. I think you will get a better  crumb structure and a less gummy texture.

Secondly, in my experience, allowing the flour to completely hydrate with the liquid before adding salt and oil is the single best procedural change I have made over the years. Depending on who you're reading, most authors call this an Autolyse. I suggest after a brief but effective mix of the flour and water you cover and leave at room temperature for 30-60 minutes. Then add salt, yeast and oil at the end of the final mix.  As with most aspects of baking, the technique is as important if not more so than the actual recipe.

Last of all, looking at your preferment, you are using an amount of starter that is way in excess of what would be needed to inoculate the pre ferment. I suggest trying a scant 1/2 teaspoon of starter to 1 oz of flour and 1 oz water. This will make your preferment more of a poolish and less of a biga natural. The main advantage of this change will be that you will have a better window of proofing to baking later. The dough activity will be slowed slightly and you will be less likely to over proof. In the procedure you mention above, half of the total flour is pre-fermented and that is over inoculated. Generally 25-30% of the flour being pre-fermented yields a better outcome.  As a point of reference, I routinely inoculate a batch of 70% hydrated dough consisting of 600 grams flour and 420 grams water and 12 grams salt, using only 25 grams of starter. Mixed after dinner, stretched and folded once or twice before bed,  it will be ready for pre shaping before noon depending on the temperature. Hope this helps. BTW I measure  single malt scotch the way you measure oil and it works just fine lol.

Eric

rm1211's picture
rm1211

Thanks - I am firstly going to try a loaf with a higher hydration. 

I have tried adding the oil and salt at different stages - and have tried an autolyse (although probably not for as long as you suggest). These can all go on the list of things to test further :-) 

tsaint's picture
tsaint

so I found an old post of mine, the last paragraph I was concerned about the shiny gummy texture http://breadnbeer.wordpress.com/2011/02/06/beer-grain-rye-bread/  that's the first time I used the Tartine recipe with my combo cooker. I  bake it in the combo cooker pretty hot (500 down to 450) for 40min, my starter is usually barm (beer yeast), then I have rye flour, bread flour, grain, water and salt. Also the last pic http://breadnbeer.wordpress.com/2011/02/22/rye-bread-again-and-again/ you can even see the shine. let me know if it sorta looks like that. :)

They were turning out gummy a lot (me just starting off) but I started to add more flour for less of a wet dough, and kneaded (stretch and fold) it a bit more.. so I never used oil just for the record. They are starting to look better with less wet and more kneading. Also the really wet dough seems like it needs more baking, that might make it less shiny/gummy too. 

and @ phxdog, the Tartine book I use is from San Francisco.. maybe their bread is supposed to be shiny and chewy.. never been there. :)

anyways, good luck and I'll be trying too!

rm1211's picture
rm1211

That last photo of the crumb is exactly what I'm talking about. I'm testing out a higher hydration just now so I'll keep you posted.

crazyknitter's picture
crazyknitter

HOw did your bread turn out.   I have been having the same challenge.

 

rm1211's picture
rm1211

I managed to get it better by leaving it to rise for longer. I think I had been underestimating how long it had taken to 'double' at teh initial stage. Still trying to get things perfect though.

tsaint's picture
tsaint

Yes, that could do it too. I discovered if my bread didn't rise enough it would have a rubbery texture still, I think because there's less air/gas so it becomes denser and then it needs a lot longer to bake. The rubbery sticky texture I think means there's still water in there that hasn't evaporated with baking. With my bread, the beer yeast wasn't rising my dough fast enough so I'd shape it too early. Now I have to wait like 2 overnights in the fridge for a nice bread. 

crazyknitter's picture
crazyknitter

OH!!  that would make sense!!  That makes sense!

Now, the concern I have is I am afraid that I will let it rise to much, and it will fall in baking.   How can you tell when there is enough rising?

tsaint's picture
tsaint

I'm not sure if there's a trick to the final rise.. basically I keep an eye on it until it's a little less than double the size. If it's double the size or bigger, that's usually the full capacity of rising and then you won't get much ovenspring, or any at all.. 

Davo's picture
Davo

I reckon a slightly elastic mouthfeel is what sourdough should have!  But I also think that is a dry mix. I would err closer to 70% hydration and see how you go. This will make a softer dough, allow better gluten development, and hopefully this will allow thinner walls in your bubbles, but ones which don't leak > less gummy, maybe. FWIW I like the shininess of the crumb, also!

You have no stretch and folds after initial mix/knead, and I think some would help further with gluten development. Maybe you could leave at room temp a while before you fridge it, after the mix. If based on your current degree of activity this would overprove the dough, maybe you need  a smaller levain, with more flour/water coming in new to the final bread dough mix. This would allow you to do some S&Fs of the final dough before you fridge it.