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help with Daniel Leader's sourdough recipes

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Outdoor Mama's picture
Outdoor Mama

help with Daniel Leader's sourdough recipes

Hello bread-forum goers,

I am new here and new to artisan baking. I am, however, an experienced yeast-bread maker and experienced cook who's been working with Daniel Leader's sourdough recipes from "Local Breads" for a couple of years. I have tried and tried and tried, following his recipes and instructions scrupulously, absolutely to the letter, and have checked the troubleshooting section in his book, but I just have not yet had success getting his sourdough recipes to RISE. Over and over my loaves bake up flat. I have been focusing on the whole-wheat "Pain Poilane," which calls for a stiff dough levain. Can anyone help? 

I am aware that there were typos in the original edition of his book, but I think I got all the corrections (from a friend). I ahve tried: making fresh starters, working with old starters, using a different starter (the yogurty one from the semolina "Pane di Altamura,") rising in a warmer place, rising in a cooler place, kneading more, and kneading less. I weigh my ingredients and mix in a Kitchen Aid stand mixer. I use King Arthur Bread Flour and stone-ground organic whole-wheat and whole-grain rye flours from my local natural-foods store (not sure the provenance). 

Any ideas on what else I could try? I would welcome any help, ideas, or suggestions. Many thanks - this seems like a lively online community.

OldWoodenSpoon's picture
OldWoodenSpoon

on what you have tried, but not too many specifics, but in reading about your troubles, one primary question comes to mind first:   When you make your dough, do you watch the dough, or do you watch the clock?  If you have a working, active starter, you can bake sourdough that rises and has some oven spring.  There is, however, a significant difference in the process times, especially for rising, between yeast bread dough and sourdough.  In this regard, the recipes/formulas/method descriptions are not much of a substitute for your own experience in your own kitchen with your own starter.  I forget who said it and it may even have been Dan Leader, but the saying goes something like this:  Bread baking takes time and patience, and Sourdough bread making takes time and patience squared.  This can often be a bigger problem for someone who has a lot of experience already with yeast breads.  It is very hard to retrain the expectations, and overcome the sense that "it's going to be overproofed!  I have to bake it now" that your yeast experience brings with it.

I'm sure you will get other help here too, so don't despair if the above seems like "he just doesn't get it".  I mean well and wish you the best of luck.  I've been there, done that, and am not out of the woods entirely myself with sourdough, so I would only add, hang in there.

OldWoodenSpoon

 

breadforfun's picture
breadforfun

OldWoodenSpoon offers good advice.

One thing specific to your comment that I would add is that the Poilain recipe, and most miche formulae, are meant to produce a flatter loaf. 

As an aside, I find the recipes from Local Breads less robust and harder to master than those from, for example, Hamelman's Bread.

-Brad

 

MANNA's picture
MANNA

I have the book but havent tried any recipes from it yet. I will look it over tonight and post some ideas about it. As previously stated with levains you must give it plenty of time. Its winter here in the northeast and I let my levained breads rise at room temp for 10 - 12 hours before shaping and then another 2 - 4 hours before baking.

occidental's picture
occidental

I have only tried pain Poilane once as a bread with that much whole wheat is not my favorite.  From my recollection it is not a bread that you can expect a lot of rise with.  Rather it is rather dense and flat, even if executed perfectly.  I have had great success with other breads in the book though, and would recommend Nury's Light Rye and the Quintessential French as well as the Genzano if you are looking for breads with great open crumb and a good rise.

lumos's picture
lumos

What OldSpoon said is absolutely right, and ...

"following his recipes and instructions scrupulously, absolutely to the letter"

...this could be the exact reason why it's not working. Sourdough (wild yeast) is a wild beast with its own mind. Much more so than commercially made yeast. Even it's your regular sourdough you've bee nurturing with care yourself, it may behave differently/produces different result each time depending upon all sorts of variables.  You really have to watch and feel the dough, rather than clock and regard the recipe as a guideline, not the Bible you have to follow religiously. Maybe better idea to try some other basic sourdough recipe first to get some feeling how it works and get used to how sourdough behaves. 

lumos's picture
lumos

Duplicate. - pls delete - 

Outdoor Mama's picture
Outdoor Mama

Thanks, all, for the helpful ideas, encouragement and suggestions. 

I have tried the longer rise, as OldWoodenSpoon and Manna suggest, and I appreciate breadforfun's and occidental's reminders that the miche are meant to be flatter loaves. The best advice for me I think is lumos's, which is that I just need to get to know sourdoughs, and maybe from another book like Hamelman's.  I always think that if it comes from a book it must work every time! But life isn't like that... And unlike occidental, I love the whole-wheat flavor (and nutritionally I prefer it, especially for my toddler who basically lives on peanut-butter toast...) but I also got flat results with the Genzano, which I tried a bunch of times too - but also in the whole-grain variation. 

Will check back in later when I've had a chance to try some more patient looking, observing, and getting-to-know. One more question in the meantime: is there a trick to getting a colander-plus-dishtowel to work like a banneton? I gave up on the idea after a few tries because my loaves stick horrendously, no matter how much flour I use, and they totally deflate when getting them out, as a result.

OldWoodenSpoon's picture
OldWoodenSpoon

You might try using a 50/50 mix of white or brown rice flour and AP flour on your towel.  You could even use 100% rice flour, but I don't care for the grittiness of it at that strength.  Why rice flour:  Nothing sticks to rice flour!  I use this method, especially when I retard my loaves over night in the fridge.  The long term contact made them stick just like what you say.  The rice flour blend solved the problem for me.

OldWoodenSpoon

breadforfun's picture
breadforfun

...the stickiness suggests that the gluten may not be properly developed.  Either underdeveloped or overdeveloped dough could be sticky and will not keep the structure throughout the rising.  The deflation may support this as well.  If the gluten development is correct, then the deflation suggests that the dough is overproofed.  It is better to underproof a dough to get more oven spring.  Perhaps cut back on hydration just a bit until you get the dough to behave the way you like, and gradually add back water in subsequent bakes. 

-Brad

 

lumos's picture
lumos

Stickiness can be caused by not-very-healthy levain, too.  If the  resultant bread come out very flat (flatter than a miche should be),  that also points to levain which is not top-notch condition.   If you're relatively new to sourdough, it can be difficult to judge how healthy/strong your lavain is, when it's riped to be used, when not to. I'm saying this because I also experienced lots of very sticky dough when I first started sourdough baking.  Looking back, it was mainly due to my inexperience in maintenance of sourdough and using it at a wrong timing; too much acidity in levain destroying gluten. 

  Or it could be just that you're not familiar with high-hydration dough. (Leader's Poilane is 75% hydration which is quite high)   Or maybe it was caused by under/overdeveloped dough, as breadforfun suggested, though it's quite difficult to over-knead if you knead it by hand (unless you knead really vigorously for over 20-30 min).

There're so many possibilities for the cause of stickiness, and it's quite difficult to pin-point it just by your description.  A few photos (of both outside and inside the bread) often tell us more than anything.

Also, Poilane is one of the most sought-after bread (and the most expensive to buy, at least in UK) which lots of bakers have been trying to emmulate.  Not the easiest bread to perfect. Also a miche (very large loaf) is not the easiest, either.   As I menteioned before, I strongly recommend you start from really basic sourdough before jumping into the deep end from start. Sometimes, taking a long route can take you to the destination quicker. ;)

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

I've noticed that the higher the hydration of the dough, the less time it rests in the colander.  If a 75% hydration dough sits 2+ hrs in a colander then the time is too long, it should have more dough handling first, namely another round or two of "stretch and fold."   The collapsing is also an indication that the dough was left too long alone in the colander.  The dough rose beyond self-supporting.  A dough should come out and spread just a little.  Think of the original size of the dough before any gas has formed inside.  When the dough has proofed "double" it is dangerously close to over-proofing, don't let a sourdough rise that far, save some expansion for the oven especially with high hydration doughs.  If it expands double and has little resistance to pressure from your hand, fold it onto itself to strengthen the dough and shape for another rise.  The following rise will be even shorter than the last one.  I tend to leave the dough on the counter and cover with a bowl between folds.  I can judge the "flattening" easier.  

As fermenting progresses, the dough seems wetter and folds get closer together.  When I fold the dough and it feel like it will rip from the stretching, I stop, rest and shape.  Then into the banneton.  A 4 to 1 (wheat to rice flour) mixture works like teflon preventing the dough from sticking to itself.  I keep my mixture in a stainless sprinkle jar w/lid to use for dusting.  Dust the loaf and the cloth.   Setting the colander on a rack circulates air and helps to prevent sticking. I often double the cloth if it is thin.  The top (the bottom of the loaf) can be dusted and covered with the ends of the cloth or simply covered with a glass lid, shower cap or plate to watch it rise 3/4.  

Nancy Leader Largay's picture
Nancy Leader Largay

I'm Dan's sister....if the suggestions above don't solve your problem, please reach out to Dan at the bakery.  He always tries to help (or will get someone to help you if he is traveling) to solve the challenges you face with your breadbaking.  You can message me if you prefer...(I'm not a bread expert but have good connections :-).  

Good luck! 

bpezzell's picture
bpezzell

I know there are difficulties in figuring out Leader's Bread Alone book. The math is atrocious, and it is an exercise in patience to get through it, but if you do the results are worth it. I would suggest downloading the 'errata' page (a link is provided for somewhere here on the Freshloaf). Next, for each recipe you want to attempt, check the math carefully, like a carpenter (measure twice, cut once). You'll have no problems understanding baker's math afterwards. :)
As much as I love Reinhart, and Hamelman, in my experience, the exercise of figuring out Leader's formulas leads to results that are phenomenal. I work with all three authors, plus others, but Leader is my go-to baker for seriously tasty breads.