The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Why is my bottom so soft?

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grrranimal's picture
grrranimal

Why is my bottom so soft?

No, I'm not talking about my gluteus maximus.  

I'm talking about my glutinous maximus.  

I'm baking on a baking stone at high heat.  Have only been doing it that way for a few weeks.  And I like the effect of stone + steam on my crust, and I'm getting great oven spring.

What's puzzling me is that the bottoms of my loaves are coming out soft!  Top and sides have great, crunchy crust.  Bottom is simply soft.  It's cooked, but it's soft.

My hypothesis is that my doughs are going into the oven too wet.  I'm having shaping and proofing problems that I think are down to this. So, I'm going to work with firmer dough next batch.  But, in the meantime, do you reckon that would cause a soft bottom?

Has anyone else experiences a soft bottom when baking on a stone? 

Thanks, in advance.

rcornwall's picture
rcornwall

Does the botom seem wet/soggy or just soft. How soft are you talking about?

rcornwall

grrranimal's picture
grrranimal

Mmm.  Goog clarification. 

No, the bottom isn't soggy.  It's just cooked, but not brown.  And certainly not crispy/crusty/crunchy.  It's blond and tender without being uncooked. 

Prandium longa. Vita brevis.

ryan's picture
ryan

Hi there!

Is the stone on the bottom rack of the oven? If not that may be why the bottom is a bit soggy. The heat in a pavaier oven (a $20,000) steam injected machine has all the heat in the bottom just above the baking surface stone thingy, and I believe that's what people try to simulate. Try it and be careful the bottom doesn't burn!

 

Happy Baking

Ryan

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Just wondering about some things like,

1) Size of the stone.

2) Size of oven chamber compared to stone. Air spaces or not around the stone.

3) Preheating or not. If so, for how long.

4) Baking temperature.

5) Type of oven.

6) Location of stone in the oven.

7) Typical hydration and flour type of dough.

Not that the answer will magically pop out, but the information above might lead somewhere helpful.

grrranimal's picture
grrranimal

Stone is about 35cm x 35 cm.

Plenty of space around the stone. Several inches on each side.

Preheating for minimum 45 minutes.

Baking temperature initially 260C, then down to 240C.

Oven is electric, with top and bottom elements.  I turn on both.  (I don't use fan.) 

Stone is on bottom rack of oven.

Hydration: I'm pretty free with my mix and go by feel. But I've been biased toward wet doughs for a long time because of various things I've read.  I'm beginning to question that. 

--grrr 

Prandium longa. Vita brevis.

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Maybe the stone isn't getting hot enough, although it sounds like you have that well in hand. One way the stone could be kept from heating up is if you happened to put any sort of water filled container on it during the pre-heating period. That will keep the surface of the stone close to the boiling point of water. Other than that or a very thick stone that just needs a long time to heat up, I can't say I have any other ideas about the stone or the oven configuration. You could try getting an infrared thermometer and checking the stone surface temperature with it. Unfortunately, that's not a regular item in everyone's toolbox, and they're expensive unless you have a lot of need for measuring the surface temperature of an oven.

It could be a very wet dough. I have done wet doughs fairly often, too. If you let a very wet dough rise free form on a thick bed of flour, it's possible for the water in the dough and the flour in the bed of flour to mix and build up a flour paste bottom that ends up as a white layer on the bottom of the bread.

Sorry, that's all I can come up with, but good luck with it.

Bill

breadnerd's picture
breadnerd

Are you cooling the loaf on a rack?  I have a higher cooling rack now, because sometimes I got soggier bottoms when I cooled on a low rack that was close to the counter--it would trap moisture as the loaf released it after baking.  Just a thought!

grrranimal's picture
grrranimal

 They come out of the oven that way, but thanks for covering ever base!

Prandium longa. Vita brevis.

leemid's picture
leemid

One cannot assume anything, so are you heating the oven for 45-60 minutes prior to cooking? It takes a long time for the stone to absorb the heat.

Lee

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven
hedera helix's picture
hedera helix

Any pictures of this particular application?

;^)

KipperCat's picture
KipperCat

My guess would be that the stone isn't hot enough.  You say you're preheating the stone for 45 minutes. Is this from the time you turn the oven on or the time the oven reaches the temperature?

Stone takes some time to heat up and cool down, which is why we use it in the first place.  You might try turning the oven (with stone inside) on 30 minutes sooner.  If that works, you may find it doesn't need quite that much time.

One other thought - how thick is your stone?  A thicker stone probably takes longer to heat up - I don't know as I only have a thin one.

You've got most of your bread coming along great, you're bound to figure out what it takes to crisp up that bottom. 

SDbaker's picture
SDbaker

Consider moving your stone up one our two levels. 

Do you use parchment or a semolina/corn meal base? 

Are you using a refrigerated dough or room temp?

SD Baker

grrranimal's picture
grrranimal

No parchment.

Semolina used for dusting my peel.

If I moved the stong up one or two levels It'd be at the top of the oven!

Dough is room temp.

I'll try pre-heating even longer and see if that gets me anywhere.  Will also try using a slightly drier dough and see if that has any effect. 

 

Prandium longa. Vita brevis.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Sounds to me like there is not enough heat on the bottom of the oven, stone, bread. I would move the stone down and pre-heat with lower heat for first 30 minutes of one hour pre-heat. Also test to see if the lower coil is functioning. I once had a run in with an oven that had an extra baking sheet on the bottom, hard to notice it was not the bottom of the oven. When removed the oven worked just fine. Mini O

grrranimal's picture
grrranimal

Worth checking.  Will do.  

At any rate, I'll try my next loaves using the bottom coil only, and see how I go.  

I love simple mysteries.  It's the time it takes to solve them I'm not so fond of.

 

Prandium longa. Vita brevis.

zolablue's picture
zolablue

My oven does a wonderful job of baking bread but the only time I have had a bottom crust problem as you are describing it was always on the same bread recipe that was using a bit too much water.  I felt the flour was simply not able to absorb the water so while the top crusts would be beautifully baked the underside would be paler, thinner, and never crisp.  Once I changed the hyrdration a bit on that bread (and I do love high hydration breads) that problem went away.

 

I also wonder if you can preheat your oven hotter.  Even if I'm baking at 450F or 425F I preheat to about 550 or even higher and then turn down the oven after the initial steaming.  I have a smaller than normal oven, by a little bit, so I can only fit a thinner baking stone which is roughly 15 x 12.  Even with that much thinner stone - about 1/2 inch - I can tell it is best to preheat for a minimum of 45 minutes but find an hour is even better.  The second loaf or loaves I bake always seem to do best. You might try going a bit higher for the preheat as well.

grrranimal's picture
grrranimal

Thanks for that.  In general, I think I'm going to have to give up my addiction to high-hydration doughs in order to solve both this problem and some of my loaf-shaping dilemmas.

I'm going to try that, first, then bugger around with the pre-heat times. 

 

Prandium longa. Vita brevis.

grrranimal's picture
grrranimal

 

I'm still struggling with this one, thought longer pre-heats have made it a bit better.  

I'm currently working on another theory, stemming from a problem plaguing all my doughs and loaves.  I think I'm likely under-developing the dough at the front end of the first fermentation.  Using my current techniques, I'm just getting very slack, wet dough, unless I reduce the hydration a whole lot. 

So, my next step is to try working the hell out of my next batch early on in the first fermentation, and see what happens.  It may simply be that there's just too little strength and resilience in the final dough, and it's staying too wet.

Will let you know. 

Prandium longa. Vita brevis.

Susan's picture
Susan

Love your name! Please give this simple little recipe a try and see how it does for you. I tried to clearly spell out what I do, but it's surely only one way to make SD work. Good luck!

Simple Handmade Sourdough

3/4 c starter, batter consistency
3/4 c filtered water
Mix well (I use a chopstick).
Add:
2.5 c bread flour
2 t oil
1-1/4 t salt
Mix well (chopstick again, just keep turning the dough over on itself)

*Cover and rest for 30 minutes. Turn out on very lightly oiled counter, press out gently, then fold. (Repeat from * until the dough is almost impossible to fold, and both silky and puffy, say 3 or 4 times). Put the dough back into the same bowl, sprayed with oil, in between foldings. Let dough rest until it has doubled in bulk from original.

Turn out on lightly floured counter, pull edges to center, then turn over so smooth side is up. Rotate so that you are tightening the boule. Let sit for 5 min or so while you ready the banneton (or colander or bowl with a heavily floured linen towel set inside). Rotate the boule again to tighten a little more, then turn the dough over into the banneton. Make sure the dough is tightly sealed, then fold the ends of the towel over the dough. Find a large plastic bag, put the banneton into it, seal the bag, then put the whole thing in the refrigerator overnight.

Remove from fridge, leave at room temp for a couple of hours. Preheat oven to 500F for 20-30 minutes, with a heavy baking sheet in the oven. Turn dough over onto parchment, which is on a peel or something else flat, then slash. Deposit the dough (including parchment) onto the baking sheet. Cover immediately with a stainless steel bowl large enough to accommodate the rise. Close the oven and lower the temp to 450F. After 15-20 minutes, carefully remove bowl from the bread and put it on something heatproof to cool. Quickly slide the parchment out from under the boule, then continue baking until it's brown, then bake 5 more minutes until it's dark brown!

This is a simple little loaf, easy to get right, and doesn't waste a vast amount of flour while you're making it work with your room temperatures, your water, your oven and your technique. (For example, it is dry here in San Diego, so I always use 7/8-cup water instead of 3/4-cup.) The KEY is your starter. It must be fresh and bubbly. Refresh starter the evening before, then start your dough late morning/early afternoon.

I just put a loaf (with poppy, millet and sesame seeds) in the oven, and it came out looking like this:

Simple SDSimple SD

Susan from San Diego

grrranimal's picture
grrranimal

(Thanks, Susan.  Looks like a great formula.  I'll give it a try.)

Well, the Mystery of Soft Bottom was solved, yesterday.  It turns out to be an obvious answer, if an unwelcome one. 

The bottom element in my oven is shot.  Good news is that my bad bottoms weren't caused by my technique.  Bad news is, of course, that my bottom element is shot!

"Cool," I thought. "I'll just replace it!"  Then I went looking for how to get into the bottom of my oven box.  Worse than a Rubik's cube!  Sheesh.  

Thanks very much for all the suggestions.   

 

Prandium longa. Vita brevis.

ehanner's picture
ehanner

I was just going to suggest maybe not turning the top coil on. That way you know the bottom is hot. Glad you discovered the issue. What kind of oven is it? Usually it's not hard to replace the heating elements. They are a known replaceable component with most ovens.

Eric

grrranimal's picture
grrranimal

Thanks for the thought. 

I would have thought an oven coil:

A.  Was a binary part: either working or dead.  This one appears to be half alive.  It heats, but doesn't heat much.  

B.  Was, as you suggest, an easily replaceable part.  But, blow me down, I can't figure out how the heck to get under the the bottom panel of the heat box.  It sure ain't obvious.  It's a freakin' Miele, so probably a complicated European service job.

I'm bummed that I'm out of baking action for the moment.

Grrr. 

Prandium longa. Vita brevis.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

I take it you don't have all the instructions to it.   You could look it up or try Q & A at Yahoo.  You might get the right answer.  Go to the electrical Q's.  

Mini O

KipperCat's picture
KipperCat

I can sympathize. A year ago I could have gone for months without an oven - now it would drive me crazy. You might ask for advice on the Appliance Forum at GardenWeb. I know there are a lot of Miele owners there, and often appliance repair folk as well.