The Fresh Loaf

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Dough sticking to couche

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MNBäcker's picture
MNBäcker

Dough sticking to couche

So, I make Reinhart's French bread on a regular basis. I'd like to make baguettes in a couche, but have a MAJOR sticking issue. The material I'm using is made specifically to be used as a couche, so I know that's not the problem. I also liberally coat (not just dust) the fabric with flour when shaping and placing the loaves. My dough is 75% hydration and dries out nicely on the top, but whenever it touches anything (like the countertop), it sticks like the Dickens, even with flour underneath. Today I actually placed the couche on a doughnut screen, so air was circulating underneath it, but somehow the dough still absorbed the flour and attached itself to the fabric...

I'm ready to use rice flour next time, then semolina, to see if it helps. I paid good money for the couche (in fact, I even bought TWO, so I could make more baguettes at a time), but, so far, this is NOT working.

Anybody have any suggestions about a possible solution?

Thanks in advance,

Stephan

thomaschacon's picture
thomaschacon (not verified)

Rice flour is a good idea. Semolina too, but less so than rice.

I use canvas. I've always preferred it over linen, not only because it's (much) cheaper, but because it isn't as absorbant. It gets less absorbant with use too. (You will learn very shortly than this preference is in the minority on TFL.)

75% shouldn't be causing that much of a problem, should it? For me, 78% is a bit dicey; 80% is nearing 'no man's land'; but 75% should be manageable with bench/couche dusting. Makes me wonder about your flour absorption. Low-protein flours are less absorbant than higher protein flours like bread flour or hi-gluten. Or do I have that backwards? No, no, that's right. Higher protein = more absorbant.

Also, you say "the material you are using...". What material is that? And who did you buy it from? I bought 'couche linen' from someone online a few years ago ($100 of the stuff) and ended up using it to clean my bike. It wasn't linen.

MNBäcker's picture
MNBäcker

Thomas,

I'm using bread flour. The material was bought from Frankie G. at fgpizza.com . I don't think the material itself is the problem, though. Frankie has been more than helpful in trying to troubleshoot with me, and he uses the same material without any problems.

Stephan

thomaschacon's picture
thomaschacon (not verified)

I looked at Frankie's website (http://fgpizza.com/store/page4.html) and the cooresponding video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m5_s2ACMZ0o).

It's labeled as baker's couche and says "a professional fabric that works very well for dough fermentation". But what's it made of? It's neither linen nor canvas, traditional couche fabrics.

It looks synthetic to me. (If it is, just imagine the reaction of a Frenchman, "Quoi! Je m'étonne! Quelle dommage! Non! Non! Non!" [chases Frankie out the building with a rolling pin in hand.])

Can you ask Frankie what it's made of? Frankie's on TFL, right? ("Yo! Frankie! What's it made of?")

LindyD's picture
LindyD

For $9.50, you could have purchased a linen couche from SFBI that actually works.  

http://sfbi.com/linen_canvas_couche.html

Oh well....rice flour will surely help whatever fabric you were sold, and the excess brushes off easily.

MNBäcker's picture
MNBäcker

Thanks, Lindy...

I had looked on their website, but it was a while ago, and I swear they only had half the items on it then, and you also had to call in your order. I'm also pretty sure the linen was more expensive then.

Anyway, I bought what I bought because I had a good experience before and thought what I bought would work.

 

Stephan

MNBäcker's picture
MNBäcker

Seriously - I haven't had a bad experience with any of the stuff I ordered from him (which is why I didn't disclose the source of the fabric right away). It looks and feels pretty similar to what we used in Germany, even though it's not quite as heavy.

FWIW, the dough does not stick along the sides of the loaf, it's only on the bottom (where there must be some way for moisture to escape into the fabric).

I'm sure Frankie will chime in sooner or later.

Stephan

thomaschacon's picture
thomaschacon (not verified)

What's the bench made of? Is it "moisture proof"? If not, your loaves and/or couche could be pulling moisture from the bench, gluing everything into one neat piece of annoyance.

MNBäcker's picture
MNBäcker

The first time I used it, I had it on an aluminum sheet pan. Since I thought "maybe there's too much condensation going on", I actually used a doughnut wire rack today. That wire rack sits inside an aluminum sheet pan, but with approx. 1 inch of air underneath.

My bench is laminate countertop, but I proof my loaves in a rolling rack.

Stephan

thomaschacon's picture
thomaschacon (not verified)

Then it's pulling moisture out of the bread. That's fine, as couche will do that, but it should not result in sticking, else what's the point of it being baker's couche?

Back to square 1. What's it made of?

Maybe it's so breathable that it's literally sucking your loaves through its tiny, greedy little pores. ;D

Yerffej's picture
Yerffej

The first question that comes to my mind is what is the couche made from.  I use linen and have not had a problem such as you describe.  Even when I have forgotten to dust the couche, the sticking had been very minimal.

I second the idea of  "Yo! Frankie! What's it made of?"

Jeff

Toad.de.b's picture
Toad.de.b

Lordy. If there ever was an issue that warrants inclusion in a TFL FAQ, this has got to top the list. Everybody encounters this at one time or another (and another, and another) but there seems to be no one-size-fits-all solution. For my battles, the following spells have provided some defense against the dark arts of couche sticking:

1. Generous use of a 50:50 rice flour : AP flour mix, as recommended above and pretty much everywhere (e.g., Tartine). Rice flour is fairly inert. Really massage it into the cloth.

2. I've lately been giving the dough a 10-15 minute uncovered bench rest *after* shaping and before banneton-ing, to dry the dough surface slightly before its close encounter with the cloth. I even considered letting a fan blow on them for a while, to whisk away any excess moisture that might want to jump ship to the banneton liner, but have stopped short of that since, if particularly effective, it would add to my oven steaming's workload unnecessarily. Recent bakes have been mercifuly uneventful at banneton unloading time (touch wood).

Full disclosure: I've not used a couche yet- baguettes are way above my pay grade. My bannetons are from SFBI and their liners accept a lot of rice/flour mix. AND, they seem to be getting less clingy with every use. Then again, the weather's warming up in this hemisphere and I have no reason to believe that's not affecting *everything*, including banneton sticking. Bakes have been in a room 10˚F warmer than two months ago.

Good luck and please share any of your spells that work!

Tom

JustinB's picture
JustinB

For benching flour, we use half AP/half rice. Rice is a lot finer and doesn't stick as bad or at all. We ran out of our 50# bag of rice flour so I've been using our normal bread flour, and the dough is sticking to the bannetons and a little to the couches. So that may be your problem!

 

carblicious's picture
carblicious

Another recommendation for 50:50 rice flour:AP.  Though, if I fail to flour enough and the dough is wet, it will stick to my couche too.

Good luck and report back!

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Can the sticking be caused by a starch or sizing in the cloth, often on the surface as it leaves the factory?    Since it's been gummed up a few times, I'm sure it has gotten a good washing.   

How long is the dough lying in the couche?  Longer than an hour?  Have you a picture of the risen dough in the couche? 

Have you also tried a low gluten flour like fine rye or corn flour?  (I use AP to rice flour, 4 to 1 (less rice flour) in a stainless shaker can but most of the time use rye.) 

Try rolling the dough itself in flour or seeds or rolled grain before placing in the couche, they toast up nicely during the bake..  If the dough is too wet to roll in flour, chances are good the dough is too wet for a couche.  Also dough can be rolled in chopped nuts or even bread crumbs.  Even on baguettes!

Is it possible that lack of dough development or something with the dough is the issue?  As you say the dough is very sticky.  Got some pictures?

gmabaking's picture
gmabaking

With less than a dozen experiences, I am very interested in reading the posts on this thread. I have one lined basket and one (unlined) brotform. I have been using AP flour, followed by a small handful of rice flour. This has worked well as I gained confidence that the dough really didn't collapse like a balloon when I turned the basket over...until last week. I realized just as I set the dough in that I hadn't used the rice flour. Since it was late and the rice flour wasn't handy, I decided it wasn't really necessary. The linen one released just fine but the unlined one hung on just enough to turn the boule into a batard. Luckily it didn't deflate and had even had a nice oven spring. Lesson learned, will set out rice flour from now on. So Stephan, as so many recommend on this forum-keep on trying and you will find a method that works!

proth5's picture
proth5

I have been seeing blue micro fiber couches at various trade shows - so I am just posting to wonder what the fabric could be - my search engine giving me no help.

Linen is the "go to" fabric as it is the most efficient of the natural fibers to absorb moisture from the outside of the bread (which is the function of a couche) but I can see microfiber as being even more efficient.  Perhaps too efficient as you may be finding out.

However, if you have ever been hit with the scent of a moldy linen couche because it was not properly hung to dry, you might begin to think about the virtues of the synthetic fibers...

I haven't floured my "Rocky Mountain Area" couche in years - and I do some high hydration breads these days - and nothing sticks. But I'm sure the rice flour mixture - well rubbed in and then dusted on - will do the trick.

When I bake in more humid climates and encounter stickage - I find that gravity is your friend - hold on to the couche fabric and let gravity pull the loaf towards the transfer peel or the peel or the loader or wherever you are trying to put the loaf.  Works better than pulling at the thing - but you must have patience.  

Do post back on the material from which the couche is made - that is quite interesting...

tn gabe's picture
tn gabe

More air circulation, more moisture drawn out of bread, more sticking.

I've found that using what seems to be a ridiculous quantity of flour on new linen is the ticket in my limited experience. I bought some cheap untreated flax linen online and before I used it the first time spent about 10 minutes rubbing flour into it. I mostly use the couche for sourdough batards with similar hydration top your baguette dough. 

Good luck. Having a beautifuly shaped and proofed loaf meet a cruel death by disfigurement on it's way to the peel is a major bummer!

frankie g's picture
frankie g

Hey Everyone, thanks for the "yo's"!  Yo back.

Stephan and I have had some conversation via email and over the phone.  We identified that his bread formula was 75% hydration, and sticking to the bottom of the couche, not the sides of the couche... this gave us the bright idea that it could be what the couche resting on during rising not the couche itself.  I rest mine on wood and Stephan was going to try something else.

We then discussed that in my video (http://fgpizza.com/videos.php#Fermantation) , I made Tartine's baguette recipe, which inludes a poolish (100% flour +100% water) and a very high hydration final recipe, which I would consider 80% at least counting the poolish.  I had no issue with it sticking as you can see.

Our couche material is a combination of linen and polyester.  It's not washed but can be washed at the discresion of the baker.  The material is resistent to mold, and is a non-woven fabric to prevent freying. It's manufacturered to breath and is sturdy enough to hold its shape. I personally love it and use it.

I do a bench-rest of the dough on a wooden board, covered with a towel or heavy plastic. I then shape my baguetts  on my granite countertop before I place in the couche for the final rise.  I use semolina and AP as a dusting flour, and dust it liberally.  In the video that I made for it, and everytime that I use it, I have no issues with it sticking.

I am really sorry to hear about Stephan's issue....  :(

Also, a quick thank you to those who have purchased items from us.  We really appreciate it since it funds our daughter's education.  If I or FGpizza can be of any assistance, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Frankie G

www.fgpizza.com

proth5's picture
proth5

a non woven linen/polyester fabric.  Now, I've heard it all. Oh strange new world that has such fabrics in it!

I am fascinated.  Although I have no issue with my current couche fabric I may have to give one of those a try...

Thanks for your answer!

Toad.de.b's picture
Toad.de.b

Am I remembering Buehler and other sources correctly? Whenever new tension is manually developed in a dough's surface (S&F, pre-shaping or final shaping), water molecules are freed that were previously bound in the gluten network. Both the time interval between S&F's as well as the bench rest between pre- and final shaping allows those molecules to re-assume gluten associations. Perhaps couche sticking is more prevalent in the home baking environment (all other factors being equal) because home bakers are not pros who deftly stroke a loaf into final shape with minimal manipulation, gluten network disruption and concomitant release of water. Exacerbating the problem, home bakers are preparing so few loaves that the time interval between (possibly overly fussy) final shaping and transfer to banneton is so short that the freed water isn't given time to re-associate with the gluten. In the videos I've seen online of commercial bakehouses, an entire batch undergoes final shaping, after which the shaped loaves are then bannetoned. So there's an interval for water-gluten reassociation. In the case of baguettes, however, there is no lag between shaping and couching, so the time interval aspect of my proposal is less relevant there. Make sense? Probably enough to convince me to continue giving my doughs a brief rest between final shaping and bannetoning.

Couldn't agree more with tn gabe, that "Having a beautifuly shaped and proofed loaf meet a cruel death by disfigurement on its way to the peel is a major bummer!" Saving grace is that beautifully shaped and disfigured loaves differ much more in jpeg postability to TFL than in flavor. Thank Demeter for that.

Tom

MNBäcker's picture
MNBäcker

Thanks for all the replies, folks. I made sourdough baguettes today, and the rice flour did, indeed, do the trick. Loaves released like a charm!

Stephan

frankie g's picture
frankie g

Glad everything worked out Stephan!

Send me pictures or post them to our facebook page.

Frankie G

www.FGpizza.com