The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

I lost my mojo....

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SallyBR's picture
SallyBR

I lost my mojo....

No other way to put it.  I've been baking sourdough bread for four years, I've made some amazing loaves on a regular basis, I feel that I know (knew) my way around most tricks of the trade.  Folding, shaping, baking, even scoring was going quite well.

 

For the past 8 months or so, I've only had failures or close to failures.  I discussed at Dan Lepard's page on Facebook, got some advice to tune up my starter. Bought a commercial starter and tried that too. 

 

I just opened the oven to find yet another failure, this one so pathetic that I swear I almost cried.  A pancake-shaped with barely any oven spring OVernight Country Blonde.

 

I am soooo frustrated that right now all I want to do is never bake another loaf of bread again.

 

Has anyone been through this?  What the heck is going on????  Have I been this naughty to the Gods of Bread?

Ford's picture
Ford

Give us more information: recipe, timing of steps, refreshing of starter, etc.  Maybe, we can offer some suggestions.  Pictures also might help.

SallyBR's picture
SallyBR

I cannot bring myself to take a picture of the last failure.  Let's say it will turn into croutons for salad... :-(

 

THe recipe is the Overnight Country Blonde, which has been discussed here - a little unusual in the sense that the dough proofs for 12 to 15 hours at room temperature.  Mine proofed for 12 hours almost exactly and it did triple in size.  After 3 hours post-shaping I baked it, but I noticed the dough had zero "gluten strength"  However, others who made this bread remarked that sometimes it looks as if it won't work, but it does."Amazing oven spring" etc etc.   Well, not when Sally handles it

 

Starter was refreshed for 4 days at 100% hydration, then the final levain made exactly as called for in the recipe (a huge amount of starter), about 8 hours before the final dough

Apart from the lack of strength in the shaped loaf, everything seemed perfect. 

 

My oven is a perverse piece of equipment and we are starting to renovate the kitchen - in 6 weeks I should have a new oven, maybe I should just quit bread baking temporarily.  This is killing me... killing me   (sigh)

Ford's picture
Ford

"The recipe is the Overnight Country Blonde, which has been discussed here - a little unusual in the sense that the dough proofs for 12 to 15 hours at room temperature.  Mine proofed for 12 hours almost exactly and it did triple in size.  After 3 hours post-shaping I baked it, but I noticed the dough had zero 'gluten strength' "

I sounds to me that the acid in the sourdough caused the hydrolysis of the gluten to the extent that the gluten was essentially nonexistent.  Twelve hour proofing at room temperature seems, to me, like an excessive amount of time.  I bulk proof for about two hours at room temperature.

I doubt that your oven is the culprit.  You should, however, check the oven temperature as it relates to the dial settings and adjust accordingly.  Then continue baking -- don't give up, even temporarily!

Ford

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

If i proofed anything SD on the counter for 12 hours it would be goo food even in the winter time.  I would run a test by letting it bulk ferment on the counter for half an  hour since it has so much starter in it.  Then bag it and refrigerate it for 12 hours.  Then let it warm on the counter for 30 minutes, shape and final proof it on the counter in the bag for 2-3 hours and bake it when it is ready. 

You are too good a baker to be the problem.  It has to be the recipe.  This test will prove it. 

evonlim's picture
evonlim

hi Sally, just get the time and temperature right, as Ford suggested. don't give up!! failure leads to success if you persevere. pictures will definitely help for us to assist in supportive discussion and suggestion and advice.

try again!! look forward to see your next post.

evon 

SallyBR's picture
SallyBR

Thanks!  You are all making me feel a little better...

I took a deep breath and took a photo of my "masterpiece" -  the taste is actually pretty good, sour to the point I like.  But pancake-city, all the way. 

 

What do you think? 

gmabaking's picture
gmabaking

a little bread must fall... Yikes, who would ever say that? I have a loaf that looks like a twin to your photo lanquishing in the freezer. Its companion went to the wild turkeys in the alfalfa field but I saved one for croutons. I agree with today's post about the shorter proofing times, particularly since the weather is so warm. I'm going to try refrigerating instead of overnight on the counter. Until warm weather, I was getting really comfortable with the Blondes and the Double fed sweet levain from Forkish's book. Had even stopped watching the videos before each bake as I did at first. Then I made the pancake loaf! Guess it is back to the videos and into the refrigerator with the dough. In case you haven't seen these here is the url http://www.therecipeclub.net/2012/10/10/video-series-bread-making-with-ken-forkish-author-of-flour-water-salt-yeast/  Good luck to us all with our bread.

The size of the DO issue reminded me of my early difficulties with the stretch and fold. I was using a 6 qt container and not getting good results. I switched to a very large bowl and it made a world of difference. At first I would put it back into the 6 qt container after the required stretch and folds, just so I could gauge the amount of growth. Stopped doing that after a while. With the larger bowl the bread hasn't pancaked again.

Barbra

Ford's picture
Ford

Thin?  Yes!  But the crumb looks good -- good enough to eat!  Eat your failures and move on!

Ford

SallyBR's picture
SallyBR

You are a gentleman, Ford!  (But I knew that already... :-)

 

thank you,  I am waiting for my husband to arrive from golf, he ALWAYS finds something nice to say about my breads....    

I will not give up. 

FlourChild's picture
FlourChild

A couple of simple things to check- 

First, is there any way gluten development could be lacking?  For instance, are you using a weaker flour than Forkish uses for these breads?  Or being too soft/lax with stretch and folds?  He taxes the structure quite a bit with the long ferments, both from the standpoint that many of his breads triple before they are shaped (as opposed to double), and also from an enzymatic point of view- that protein network has to hold up to a lot of proteolysis.  

Second, when I was baking breads from his book I found that even a degree or two above 68F and the breads were overripe and lacking in oven spring- is it warmer than 68F where the breads are fermenting?

It couldn't hurt to pull back a bit from his timetables (8-10 hrs instead of 12) and see if things improve.

Editing to add:  looking at your photo makes me think that your dutch oven might be larger in diameter than he recommends- check the front portion of the book where he discusses the DO- he says that a larger size than specified means the loaf is more spread out and less tall in shape, he is counting on the DO to provide the support, rather than the dough.

SallyBR's picture
SallyBR

I used all purpose flour from King Arthur, as well as whole wheat and rye from KA too.  

I had some trouble to fold the dough the first two times, then it gained a bit of structure - the last two series of folds felt "normal" to me.   THe temperature was around 76F, probably too high for that long fermentation...

 

I think what's happening with me is a bit similar to golf... once you lose confidence, it all goes downhill... ;-) 

It seems to me that my decision making process is messed up - I start to trust more the written words and try to mimic exactly what the recipe says instead of trusting my instincts.

Well, as someone once said, it's only flour, water, and salt. No major loss...

Just read your edit:  I did not pay attention to that part of the instruction. It is absolutely true, my Dutch oven is much larger, it works very well for my "breads of the past", but maybe for this type of recipe one needs extra support. 

I am not repeating this recipe until I get my mojo back   ;-)

 

 

FlourChild's picture
FlourChild

I think you've nailed it with the higher room temp and the larger dutch oven :)   Forkish breads don't have enough wiggle room to make changes to temp or DO size.

Stuart Borken's picture
Stuart Borken

You have tried to make better breads and lessened the quality of your recipe.  Go back to your orig. Dutch oven,  modify the temp. of the room, do not over proof, bake not by timing of the proof but by the size of the loaf.  Have you changed your salt?  Finer crystals give you more salt and reduce the rise.  Has your yeast changed to a less vigorous strain?  

SallyBR's picture
SallyBR

... will definitely do so...

I did not change my yeast, actually if anything I made it better by fixing a few boo-boos after the discussion with Dan Lepard's partner.  I add the salt by weight to avoid any problems with inconsistency on the amount.

Overall, I think I picked the wrong recipe to regain my confidence and it shattered it instead.. (best laid plans... ;-)

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

post on this bread?  He had similar problems with overproofing basrd on time rrather than what the dough was doing,   He fixed it with his next attempt -a  great read - that he just posted.

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Unless "mojo" = self-confidence.

I think the preceding replies have covered your problem. I would have had the same outcome, if I hadn't realized 6 hours into the bulk fermentation that there was no way it was going to go 12 to 15 hours without total melt-down (proteolysis). 

I think I'm going to try bulk fermenting in an ice chest next time and monitor dough temperature along the way.

David

SallyBR's picture
SallyBR

That could be an excellent move, I am giving this recipe a rest until I can face it. Wish me luck for next weekend    ;-)

Janetcook's picture
Janetcook

Hi Sally,

I many have commented here about the  long room fermenting time.  I agree.  I would have soup.  

I am not sure how much leaven the formula calls for but I know that I only use 15% pre-fermented flours in my leaven and my 'entire' leaven is 26% of the formula.  THis allows for an hour of bulk ferm. at room temp. and then a long refrig. bulk ferm. overnight.  In the morning it gets a couple of hours of room time to warm up prior to shaping.  Generally works but with summer heat I have to watch things closely.

So, to sum up, you might try decreasing your leaven next time.  

Good Luck,

Janet

SallyBR's picture
SallyBR

Thanks, Janet...  I am hoping to exorcize my own demons next weekend.... worst case scenario: I'll be here whining again   ;-)

Barbara Krauss's picture
Barbara Krauss

Count me among those who have had little luck with this formula. I agree that the bulk ferment at room temp is way too long, unless your ambient kitchen temp is 40 degrees F.

I've been totally inspired by some of your past results! You'll get back on track, I have confidence.

Barbara 

SallyBR's picture
SallyBR

I am doing THE HAPPIEST BREAD DANCE HERE!

I think I found my mojo.... it worked now!  I can bake a loaf of bread that does NOT like a pancake look!   ;-)

 

Used Dan Lepard's basic white levain bread, added a little spelt just because....  

 

I had ZERO hope for this bread because it stuck real bad to the banetton and I had to wrestle with it (literally) - still, it rose to the challenge. Literally...  

 

Thanks for all your virtual support, I am feeling on top of the world right now!!!!!!

 

Janetcook's picture
Janetcook

I agree, your mojo has returned :)

Beautiful loaf too!

Maybe your mojo just wasn't feeling appreciated so it took a break and now is back in full glory *^ )

 

Take Care,

Janet

SallyBR's picture
SallyBR

and the mandatory crumb shot... :-)

Wild-Yeast's picture
Wild-Yeast

I think every baker has a "leavened bread with an unleavened look" period - especially when they wander off the beaten path and attempt a fairly radical departure into something like high hydration doughs. The experience is different enough from normal routine such that the recipe is slavishly followed - giving one a false sense of security that the recipe's author is expert in not only bread baking but also in their explanatory writing abilities.

I've found that reading a recipe three or four times over a period of days and mentally reviewing the procedures against my own experience level has served in good stead.  This gets easier as you accumulate more experience as the spaces of the unknown are explored. As they say in physical therapy, "no pain, no gain".

Your redemption bake turned out beautiful - the crumb shot is extraordinary...,

Wild-Yeast

SallyBR's picture
SallyBR

No pain, no gain... so true!

thank you... and we just confirmed that the bread tastes absolutely delicious! 

 

 

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

of that MOJO!  Way to go!  Told ya you were too good a baker to have these problems for long.

Happy baking

FlourChild's picture
FlourChild

Wow, that is one great-looking loaf of bread- gorgeous crust and crumb, and sounds delicious!  Welcome back, mojo.