The Fresh Loaf

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Two things -- Dough too liquidy and what is the importance of the seam?

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JamieD's picture
JamieD

Two things -- Dough too liquidy and what is the importance of the seam?

Hi there,

I'm baking bread according to the tartine method and have gradually been getting better. My starter is healthy and can raise bread with half a tbsp of starter (after making a leaven of course). I know there are a lot of posts on the tartine method but I've gotten so frustrated recently that I felt i had to post something more specific to my actual situation. The main problem i'm having is that my dough is too liquidy and isn't getting enough surface tension to properly shape - it's the stickiest thing in the world!

This is a bit odd because i'm baking 85% white and 15% wholegrain, and at 71% hydration (the recipe in the book is 75!). I'm using allison strong white flour at 12% protein and am bulk fermenting/proofing at 78 degrees Fahrenheit. So I don't understand what's going wrong.

I know people say don't back off on the hydration and that I should learn how to "work with wet dough" but honestly this dough is IMPOSSIBLE to work properly - it sticks to counter whether it is covered in flour or oil, and it even sticks to my bench scraper. Every time I try to handle it and try to remove my hand/scraper the resulting tug distorts any shape i have tried to make. I have made do by scraping my bench scraper around the loaf in circles in order to build tension which works okay. And when it comes to after the bench rest I try to shape as suggested but the dough is so sticky that no real "seam" is created as the dough just merges (and by the way - why do we need a seam anyway?).

After proofing the dough is so liquidy if you shake the banneton it wobbles like jelly - hence when you put it into the pan it loses all shape.... The bread itself tastes nice but is rather ugly (as scoring is impossible) and flat. 

I'd really appreciate some help from you guys because this is getting incredibly frustrating.

Thanks a lot,

Jamie

JamieD's picture
JamieD

One more thing.....

If you look at these videos of people shaping post bulk fermentation - this is how the dough is SUPPOSED to look:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fqry9EAtXpI

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cXmEorotWpQ

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OPF4e50ZsJc

The dough holds it's shape and they hardly need to use any flour and it doesn't stick... they can work with it. If I were to handle it like they were I would just have gluten strands coming from both hands -- and mine is only 71% hydration!

 

FueledByCoffee's picture
FueledByCoffee

It sounds like you are not achieving proper gluten development...

JamieD's picture
JamieD

But what do I do about it? Do I just stretch and fold more often / leave it to rise for longer? Thing is another post discusses this a lot as well and I have the same problem in that I can stretch the dough a lot after 3-4 hours -- it just doesn't have any tension :(

FueledByCoffee's picture
FueledByCoffee

I have never actually read Tartine and don't know how his method differs from what I know and have been taught...I know it's all about long slow fermentation, but I'd have to know more about the process.  It's a book that's on my list but I already have a stack of books that I bought and haven't barely read any of.  It can be difficult to find time...what type of white flour are you using?

FueledByCoffee's picture
FueledByCoffee

Ah, you could be having an issue with your white flour not being suited for the job!  Typically for this type of bread you would want something with a lower protein content.  Depending on your flour you could have the tendency to peek earlier then lose strength.  This is a typical characteristic of some flours that are advertised as bread flour because of their high gluten content.  They may be great for quickly processes pan breads but not as suitable for long fermentation...

JamieD's picture
JamieD

Possibly .... but I used to use flour at 11.4 per cent protein and that had similar problems (however there were a couple of occasions where I used that flour and there was significantly more oven spring -- i couldn't replicate it though -- the dough has only once come out even slightly like the videos above and goodness knows why)... Also the bread that flour that is recommend is King Arthur flour which is 11.75 -- not too far off my 12.1 (though I suppose a few decimals can make a big difference).... 

Also, are you saying my bread is OVER proofed? I thought I didn't develop enough gluten :S

If I do use this flour - should i just take an hour off the bulk fermentation and proofing times then?

FueledByCoffee's picture
FueledByCoffee

Well...the protein level isn't the only important factor and doesn't tell a baker enough in and of itself.  It's also necessary to know the ash content which will give you a better idea of where that protein is coming from within the grain and ideally we would no more specifics like the alveograph readings and falling numbers...I know there are other people here that probably can speak on this subject more clearly and technically than myself (so I won't even attempt to do it in a technical matter)...but in very simple terms some flours will hold better strength over longer periods of time and others will be stronger at one point but will peak and rapidly decline in their ability to hold gasses and their gluten structure.  This is why so many people prefer french flours, typically speaking they are not as strong as the flour we have in America (their peak isn't as high) but they will hold their strength for a longer period of time.  So for long fermentation methods they are often better.

At first it sounded like an issue of not developing the proper gluten network but as you talk about it more it seems more likely that it's "overproofed"/there is an issue with the flour you are using for this particular application.  The issue of being overproofed and developing the proper gluten structure is not a simple relationship.  There are so many other things in play. 

golgi70's picture
golgi70

Any chance you can share your technique with this loaf.  I'm gonna guess your flour isn't the problem at least from a protein content point of view as I believe this loaf is made with a Central Milling Flour which is 11.5% or so.  

Most importantly are you following the formula exactly?  With exception to decreasing the hydration?  

I don't have the book but have made the loaf twice now and it is a very slack dough but it you follow the protocol it has lots of strength.  Still it is very sticky and takes careful handling (there must be 1000 youtube videos on this).  

Based on your description I think you are not developing the gluten in the dough and hence the sloppy dough.  This dough needs some serious stretch and folds to get up to snuff.  From my experience the bulk ferment is 3 1/2 hours and every 30 minutes you do stretch and folds but not just one letter fold but a series of folds.  I like to fold until I notice the dough is taught and would tear if I did more.  Then rest for 30 and repeat.  Over the course of the folds you should find it takes less of these to get the dough taught.  But after 5 sets of folds you should have a vigorous dough that is very well developed.  

I do believe this is where the problem is and hope this helps.  i suggest watching some of the youtube videos on the stretch and folds and then the shaping.  And I bet when you get this down you will want to increase that hydration to its original %. 

Good luck

Josh

Heath's picture
Heath

I have exactly the same problem with my sourdough as you, Jamie.

I've found that bread made with my sourdough starter, following the same recipe and using the same ingredients, hydration and techniques as bread I make with commercial yeast, is much sloppier and stickier.  In fact, I've only baked my sourdough loaves in a pan so far because of it.

Much more intensive kneading is the only thing I've found that helps, so I think the other commentators are correct that the problem is lack of gluten development - why this differs in my sourdough to my commercially-yeasted bread I've no idea.

The last dough I made, with 15 minutes of slap and folds, was much less sticky and sloppy than using just stretch and folds, so I'll be doing that in future - I hope my arms get used to it, lol.

 

FueledByCoffee's picture
FueledByCoffee

Perhaps it is a problem of not folding strong enough as I had originally thought, but when you said that you can keep folding it and achieve no tension after 3-4 hours I thought the problem might be elsewhere.  One more quick question -- does it seem like you are building tension in the first few hours  but then after that 3-4 hour mark you can't seem to get the tension?  As far as the protein content being lower on Central Milling flour -- The protein content is not the most indicative number as to what will make the best artisan bread and in fact higher protein flours are not preferred.  So Golgi, if your reasoning that his flour has a high protein content so it's fine then that view is incorrect...

golgi70's picture
golgi70

Somewhere along the thread it was mentioned this Flour was 12% protein and I was just noting that a comparable protein flour is used in the original loaf.   I just assumed that it was unlikely the problem of the flour is all.   In that I certainly could be wrong and I suppose a good way to find out would be to use the same flour in a tried and true formula the poster has and see if the same issues are occurring.  I know protein content is only a detail among many that flour has and some lower protein flours perform better for certain breads than higher.  

I foolishly assumed the flour wasn't the problem knowing those that new to bread making/high hydration doughs have a hard time developing gluten as it takes a bit more work and know how.  You can give a high hydration dough a good strong fold and it seems as if its got the gluten then it goes back to slack.  It takes some practice to know how many sets of these folds really develops the gluten properly.  Hence the reason new bakers lean towards lower hydration doughs as they are easier to work with and even with poor gluten development tend to stand up and make a "fair" loaf in the end.  

Josh

Les Nightingill's picture
Les Nightingill

You are obviously reading and re-reading the Tartine instructions in trying to diagnose your problems.

As others have surmised, it's probably an under- or over-proofing problem, with inadequate gluten being the symptom of both.

Following the under-proofing diagnosis, my suggestion is to improve the vigour of your starter and levain. Are you feeding the starter daily? Chad Robertson mentions feeding even more often when preparing for a bake. Is your levain rising reliably, are you doing the float-test on the levain?

I followed the Tartine method for a year, with passable but not stellar results. My cultures (starter, levain and dough) became much more lively when I converted to a 100% rye starter. I hated to abandon the Tartine prescription, but I wanted better results. I've drooled over the pics in the book and I'm mystified that I can't achieve the same results, but this is the fact.

Regarding the seam: it's not the seam that's important but what's on the other side... the tension in the dough. It requires adequate gluten, pre-shaping and shaping to achieve this.

Les

clazar123's picture
clazar123

Does your dough feel normal before the bulk fermentation and become sticky and slack after the bulk fermentation?

How acidic is your starter and leaven? How do you make your leaven. A highly acidic dough can be rather slack. Do you use salt? How much?

If it is sticky and slack before the bulk fermentation, I would ask about your water supply. If your municipality uses certain techniques in water purification, it can affect the dough. Try using a bottled spring water for a bake and see if there is a difference.

If it is sticky and slack after the fermentation, I would reduce the fermentation time and see if there is a difference.It may be very overfermented and when the gluten breaks down, as a result, it releases water and becomes stretchy, like taffy.

 As for proofing (under/over) both can cause problems but not with the dough so much as the loaf. Enter "finger-poke test" in the search box. This is for the final proof after the loaf is baked.

Just for something different, try using some commercial yeast in a bake (1/2-1 tsp). This will probably reduce your bulk fermentation time. See how it affects the dough and the loaf.

I hope this all comes through-I seem to be having some difficulty with the editing capability of the site today. I will come back later.

FueledByCoffee's picture
FueledByCoffee

83% hydration approximately, mixed entirely by hand --

Before I fold

After I fold

 

And http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/35643/nothing-better-do is the final results of this dough.  Now I know it is a different dough than what you are making, but it does still have sourdough in it despite having less fermentation time.  I can't say I understand this whole bench scraper to help pull the dough taught thing...The boule that is behind the baguette was the same dough...when I preshaped I rested seem up and the only flour that I needed was what was on the dough from resting with it's surface down, my bench was clean and my hands were lightly floured at best (and a wet baguette is harder to shape than a wet boule).  It certainly could be over proofing but as I was trying to explain earlier, not all flours are the same and this is especially true for doughs with long fermentation times.  Just because the protein level is higher doesn't mean that the gluten formed is going to withstand long fermentation...This is why artisan bakers seek out the right flour with the proper characteristics for their task...

JamieD's picture
JamieD

Hiya guys,

I'd just like to say thanks for all your responses. Looking at forum posts with similar problems is great but i can't stress enough how helpful having feedback to your own specific situation is.

I believe as fueldbycoffee has said it is an issue of both my flour and the technique -- i.e. my flour doesn't correspond to the technique i'm using and vice versa. 

There is nothing wrong with my starter -- it can raise bread like anyone's business. I am using britta filtered water and other than that am following pretty much exactly the same recipe as described here:

http://www.spanishhipster.com/2012/04/tartine-country-bread-recipe/

i'd like to thank fueledbycoffee in particular because his advice has made me explore the subject of flour even more. Thing is, a lot of recipe books (tartine included) are books written for the american market and hence are based off of american flour (KA AP flour being the standard it seems).... over here in the UK though our flours act differently and we have to adapt.

I was thinking about it and when I do my S&Fs with the dough, the dough always becomes more and more elastic - but there comes a point where it becomes so elastic that it loses STRENGTH.... however I still have never made a dough that looks like the ones in the youtube clips above (and i stretch and fold MORE than prescribed -- and do it according to the techniques i've watched on youtube).... So as i said before, I think a lot of it has to do with the flour

LUCKILY however, the UK isn't too far from france and I have a friend who is a chef -- so i've ordered 20kgs of T65 flour.... and if I can't make good bread with that god help me 

Thanks again,

Jamie

JamieD's picture
JamieD

Just out of interest Heath.... What flour have you been using?

Heath's picture
Heath

I use Asda strong white bread flour as the basis for all my breads - it says on the pack that it's home grown British and is 11.5% protein.  I really don't think the flour is the problem, though, because I only get the highly elastic and liquidy dough that you describe with sourdough.  The exact same recipes and techniques I make with instant yeast behave as they should.

From lots of reading here on the Fresh Loaf I think it's the bacteria in my starter that are damaging the gluten strands.  I love the taste of the bread produced from it, though, so will carry on using it, but will knead it a lot more intensively than breads I make with commercial yeast.

 

JamieD's picture
JamieD

So you live in the UK too! Hmmm.... how interesting....

As far as only not working with sourdough though I think that's just it. From what I've come across and what fueledbycoffee was saying the majority of the flour here just isn't suitable for sourdough bread and long rises but rather short rises with instant yeast....

I think if we both used King Arthur All Purpose Flour (by all means not the best flour in the world but the flour upon which the recipe appears to have been developed) we would get significantly better results. There are so many variables in making bread and that's part of what makes it so rewarding....

Can I ask have you had much success with long-rise no knead recipes like the lahey recipe? I must say that hasn't been too successful for me either, not as sticky yes but still not as it should be.....

It might not be the flour you're right -- but I feel like I might as well get some good flour that I know will do the job and then if that fails move on from there in another direction rather than spend my life wondering (though at the same time enjoying my delicious tartine bread pancake loaves)....

Heath's picture
Heath

I haven't used the Lahey no-knead technique, but I have used tiny amounts of instant yeast and retarded overnight to get a long rise.  I can't remember the texture of the dough, to be honest, although the end results were tasty.

I've read through this thread again and you're right, it does sound like the flour we're using may not be right for long rises.  I wonder if swapping a percentage of bread flour for plain flour would improve matters?

I'll be very interested to hear your results when you use the French flour - please keep posting :)

JamieD's picture
JamieD

I'll also start a new thread more specifically about UK flour -- I'm sure other people have something to say about it....

ananda's picture
ananda

For the record, there is nothing wrong with industrial UK bread flours such as Allinsons when it comes to making artisan-style loaves of bread.

They may be deeply uninspiring to some, and not produce flavours liked by others, and British wheat is certainly produced in a highly intensive way with lots of chemical treatment etc.   However the resulting flour can make perfectly good bread.

Best wishes

Andy

Heath's picture
Heath

Andy - I'd certainly never thought any differently until reading this thread, that's why I'm so interested to see whether Jamie's experiments baking sourdough with French flour yield different results.  I still err on the side that it's my starter at fault rather than the British flour.

ananda's picture
ananda

Hi Heath,

You are both looking at process faults rather than material faults which need to be rectified to solve your problems.

French flour will be weaker than both flours you reference.

But to come at this problem by suggesting that Allinsons' flour cannot cope with higher hydration is just not right.

Also be aware that what the Americans on TFL term as "AP" will in general be a similar strength to UK bread flours....certainly King Arthur AP meets that criterion.

Best wishes

Andy

 

JamieD's picture
JamieD

You may well be right....

Have you had success baking sourdough at above 70 per cent hydration with Allisons?

ananda's picture
ananda

But Jamie, that is because I don't use Allinsons as my regular flour, even though I have decent experience using it.   And this style of bread isn't really my-bag.   For high hydration I only really make Ciabatta, and tend to use an Italian "00" flour for that which is indeed a weaker flour.   But these are made with yeast; still long fermentation.

I use Marriage's flour [Organic, 11.7% protein], but my white bread is hydrated at 68%.   I don't do the "no knead" thing; not my preferred method.

I would suggest you try "bassinage" if possible, and mix the dough to a more normal hydration [try 68%], then let it down with the missing water afterwards.   The problem with super-hydration is that it takes ages to develop the gluten....and there is plenty in the Allinsons flour to be developed.

Best wishes

Andy

JamieD's picture
JamieD

Now that makes sense!

So it is that some of the main british supermarket flours, though there's nothing wrong with them, aren't really suited to these kinds of ultra high hydration sourdoughs no? They have too much gluten for the recipes to work according to the approximated times -- hence one has to use their intuition to alter the recipes.....

I'll try what you suggested and will post my results :)

Thanks a lot,

Jamie

JamieD's picture
JamieD

*suited to these kinds of ultra high hydration sourdough recipes

JamieD's picture
JamieD

And by the way the bread itself tastes great.... it just doesn't have any oven spring and comes out like a pancake (and is also impossible to score / make into a pizza)

ananda's picture
ananda

It's down to technique and process Jamie,

The higher gluten flours tend to make a more tolerant dough, but it therefore takes longer to ripen the gluten so you have sufficient extensibility and dough strength.   That is what is being explained to you by FueledbyCoffee above, and in the other thread by the poster using Canadian flour.

If your dough is always too wet and not gaining in any strength then it is down to process not flour.   For stronger flours the dough ripens more slowly.   But you are describing a puddle not a dough.   There is no reason why you should not be able to achieve sufficient dough strength with UK bread flours...for any type of bread.

If you prefer to use another flour type, that's fine.   But flour choice here is not what is failing to produce the bread you want.

Best wishes

Andy

JamieD's picture
JamieD

I agree with you -- perhaps I didn't express myself properly.

I'm new to bread baking - hence why I like the idea of being able to follow a recipe verbatim and getting a good loaf of bread. Unfortunately I haven't been very successful in doing that.... 

When you say it's down to the process not the flour - it is both surely? I.e., my process and technique don't match the flour and I should "listen to my dough" more. As you just said the flour is slightly stronger and thus the gluten takes a bit longer to develop -- and perhaps I should even try a lower hydration percentage at 68 (7% lower than the original recipe). There is nothing wrong with the flour or the recipe.... it's just that they don't match up perfectly and you've got to adapt....

Thanks a lot for your help by the way - it's much appreciated

Jamie

 

ananda's picture
ananda

Hi Jamie,

I think you've chosen quite a tricky recipe to follow by picking on Chad Robertson.   It's great bread for sure, but maybe not the obvious choice for a beginner.

I still say it's down to process.   You are reading too much into the idea that UK bread flour is not suited to your process; I don't think that is true.   If you are creating a puddle instead of dough, then it is your process at fault, not the UK bread flour.   The flour is a perfectly good match for Robertson's formula.   Doesn't he use overnight systems for preference?

If you want to work lower hydration then you would not be following Robertson's concept at all really.   I agree that being able to follow a recipe verbatim may be a really good way to gather skills and knowledge.   Why don't you try a different author?   Hamelman is exceptionally reliable, so too Suas, and I haven't heard a bad word about DiMuzio either.   You can follow these recipes word for word without deviating from their methods/formula.   All these books offer a range of recipes and techniques and are reliable too!   The trouble with choosing Robertson is that he basically has one formula and all his products are just a riff on that.   So if you can't find a way to handle the wet dough, then you are not sitting at his altar.   But there are many other, and easier ways for you to improve your skills.

By the way, when I said to lower the hydration above, that is just the "bassinage" [first stage of mixing].   Once you have developed the dough, you then add all the rest of the water held back.   It's a bona fide technique practised particularly by French bakers, who mixed large quantities of dough by hand in a dough trough before the electric dough mixers came into being.

Happy to help; best wishes

Andy 

Les Nightingill's picture
Les Nightingill

For me, the Great Awakening from Chad Robertson's book was that it's just not possible to follow a sourdough formula verbatim. The only way to success is to really tune in to the dough (and starter and preferment).

Sure, you may not achieve the quintessential loaf in the first few tries, but they're not likely to be big failures either.

I'm with Andy here too about the flour issue. I believe its a red herring. I've made Tartine formula with a variety of different flours. It's just not that sensitive to the flour. Granted, though, they are all US flours. I've probably made at least 50 Tartine loaves. In my experience, the vigour of the levain and the temperature have the most effect.

I'm prompted to ask again... does your levain pass the float test?

cheers

Les

clazar123's picture
clazar123

I do concur that the problem is probably not the flour but something else.  The something else may be your starter. There are plenty of Brit bakers on this forum that have great loaves and also use sourdough/natural levain.

Just to help troubleshoot, try a commercial yeast-based recipe with a similar technique to the sourdough recipe and see how your dough behaves.  Buy a fresh packet of dry instant yeast and use the same flour as before.

Meantime- tell us more about your starter: how long ago did you make it, how do you maintain it, what hydration do you have it at or describe the texture, what flour do you use and feeding schedule,etc,etc. Tell us how it smells and tastes. I think this information may be essential to helping solve this particular problem.

Another test of the  flour  would be to mix just a handful of flour with enough water to make a kneadable dough.If you really want to get particular, scale it so that it is the same hydration as your bread dough.  Let it sit, covered, in a bowl and see if it develops the same stretchy characteristics you have been experiencing with your bread dough. It may be a telling moment.

Have fun!

clazar123's picture
clazar123

I had a whole post typed and all that showed up is the subject. I will re-type and see what happens. Back in a minute.

clazar123's picture
clazar123

I concur with Ananda and others that the flour is not the issue. I would look to your starter.

So more information is needed on your starter: how was it made? Consistency or hydration? Feeding schedule? Temp info? Type of flour used to feed it? Smell? Refrigeration? Appearance? Etc etc. I think this is where the problem lies and where the problem solving should be taking place.

You can test your flour by mixing just the flour with water to the same hydration as your dough and letting it sit in a covered container for a few hours to see if it develops the same characteristics as the dough. That may be a telling experiment.

Also, you can try a recipe that is commercial yeast based with a similar technique and see how the dough behaves under those circumstances.Make sure to use the same flour you feel may be problematic. That, also may be interesting.... and probably delicious!

Yeah! It appeared!

JamieD's picture
JamieD

hiya guys,

In regards to my starter tt is a 1:1:1 starter (50g plain white and 50g white) that i feed once a day and then feed twice a day for at least one day before I bake. It smells fruity like a slightly overripe banana and is kept in a room with an ambient temperature is around 76 degrees.

I make the levain approx 8 hours after I feed the starter -- it does pass the float test.

I maintain the temperature at 78 degrees Fahrenheit during fermentation by putting it in the oven with the oven light on.

I'm thinking now that maybe it is the technique in my stretch and folds. I do it pretty much how this woman does hers:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VXDULjx30Wc

I do it for every half an hour for the first hour and a half and then leave it for one more hour but never more than 2.... Once it gets to that point I know it's not right but I always think (and god knows why) "it's a wet dough - learn to work with it" so I dump it out onto a floured surface.... then the frustration begins........

Les Nightingill's picture
Les Nightingill

In that video, she does 10x S&F for a complete "session". She is lifting just a small pinch of dough each time. Chad Robertson suggests just 3 or 4 S&F for each session, and takes a big chunk... maybe a third or half, of the dough in each stretch.

As you do the stretches (and folds) you should feel the dough getting more resistant with each stretch... it's not a subtle thing, even within 3 or 4 stretches (in a single session) the dough should get noticeably less slack. Do you experience this? 

timko's picture
timko

Hi everyone,

picking up on the flour direction of the thread; I have enjoyed using the Tartine method for a couple of years now and notice that is similar to other methodologies.

The flour I use in starter, levain and dough is Boston Mills organic stone ground white and Boston Mills whole-meal. They don’t offer a postal service but you can track through their web site where stockists are. This combination has been very successful for me; cost about £8.50 per 5kg.

I agree with other posters however, that flour may not be the issue and wonder about possible over proofing? I like the analogy that he dough is ready to shape when its texture is akin to the feeling of an earlobe.

On handling the wet dough - I use 75% hydration - I have found that wet hands and wet tools are an advantage and prefer to do that instead of adding flour in dividing, shaping stages. 

best

Tim

 

 

 

clazar123's picture
clazar123

Does the dough have this appearance and consistency immediately upon completing mixing or does it gradually appear as it is sitting during the bulk fermentation-getting more and more slack and wet looking?

 

JamieD's picture
JamieD

Now that you mention it.... I do it slightly differently to that woman and as you described - three or four stretch and folds with each one becoming more difficult. Sorry, I never gave it this much thought.

Surfing youtube I managed to find a pretty good representation of my stretch and fold technique and the consistency of my dough - though mine is slightly more wet and glisteny, and hence sticky:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8cyozC1lWN4

As you described clazar my dough does indeed become more slack and wet looking as fermentation goes on....

Cheers everyone for your input,

Jamie

clazar123's picture
clazar123

http://www.thefreshloaf.com/comment/121566#comment-121566

This link is a long post but may sound familiar to you. I don't think your stretch and fold technique has anything to do with your issue. Something is affecting the gluten molecule-either starch damaged flour or enzyme action. My advice to try and do a bake with regular instant yeast will show whether or not the flour is damaged. Just making a dough ball will show you what you need to know. Make one dough ball with flour and water and the other with flour,water and starter. Set them in separate covered bowls at room temp (or your fermentation temp).  I would bet that the one with starter will start to liquefy and melt. That would indicate you have an organism in your starter that is producing proteolytic enzymes and may need to start a different starter or put this one in hospital for intensive care. If both start to liquefy, then probably it is your flour.

Search words: proteolysis, proteolytic enzymes, starch damage in flour.

 

 

JamieD's picture
JamieD

Hmmm interesting..... I think what i'm going to try and do is try the slap and fold kneading technique for one loaf and stretch and fold for another.... If the heavily kneaded dough turns all liquid then we know it's not gluten development and something just ain't right

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

is the problem.  At 76° A 1:1:1 feeding might be too little food.  Then you have a starter that is high in Bacteria and too little yeast.

Have you tried testing the speed of the starter?  Try a 1:10:10 feeding pack into a straight sided jar, mark & watch.  Mark it  it every two hours at first and then every hour until peaking.  Use 10g starter to 100g each water and flour mixture.  Cover and do not stir.  

JamieD's picture
JamieD

But how can that be? I know of plenty of people -- including the woman from TartineBreadExperiment -- who feed their starter on a 1:1:1 regime.....

.... what's more, if it doubles in size after 8 hours and passes the float test - then surely it's okay for raising bread.

Though I will test the speed of the starter as that sounds like a good idea and I'll post the results on here :)

Les Nightingill's picture
Les Nightingill

by the way Francis-Olive on TartineBreadExperiment is using 100% rye starter. Rye starter is quite a different beast from the Tartine AP/WW mix. (FYI I myself converted from AP/WW to Rye a few months ago in order to have a more lively starter for my Tartine loaf, this based on Francis-Olive's blog.)

Also, I'm guessing that most people keep their starter at room temp, 76 degrees is pretty warm and the whole fermentation process is very sensitive to temperature.

Les

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

that your bugs are the same as her bugs and maybe your starter just needs more food than hers to work the same rising behaviour.  Testing it give us some idea of where the yeast stands in the starter.  Be sure to measure all the temps.  Flour, water, room and mixed up starter just for the data.   :)

JamieD's picture
JamieD

Ah that makes sense - thanks for explaining :)

ananda's picture
ananda

Hi Jamie,

What Mini is suggesting is that you test the strength of your starter by throwing a lot of food at it and seeing how it copes. It is a good suggestion, she knows what she's talking about.

To help you clarify why, I use this analogy to explain how yeasts like their food.   If you are feeling a bit hungry, but you want to go out for a 3 mile run, what do you eat?   A three-course meal or a banana?

Yeasts are the same; they like little and often as opposed to being bombarded with sugars.   So Mini is suggesting monitoring just how much food your starter is capable of taking on, and at what rate it will assimilate that food.

She is not asking you to change your feeding regime permanently, simply suggesting a means for you to really help you judge the strength of your starter.

I don't think your response to Clazar123 will make any difference.   Whether you choose slap and fold or stretch and fold to develop your dough will have no bearing upon your problem.   I would read the thread referenced for you.   It may not be the answer to your problem, but at least it will get you thinking about where your problems really do lie.

Best wishes

Andy

clazar123's picture
clazar123

Kneading technique has NO bearing on your problem! It bears repeating!

Please listen to the good advice being given by excellent people who actually know what they are talking about. I am not an expert beyond my kitchen but you have fantastically experienced people giving you good advice. What a gift!

Please let us know what happens when you feed your starter as suggested by both MiniOven and Ananda or what happens when you make an experimental doughball. You need to change direction in the direction of your mental evaluation of this problem.

EDIT: Forgive my directness but there have been at least 3 people coming back to you telling you that...."Your kneading technique is NOT the problem".

 

 

JamieD's picture
JamieD

Forgive me if I seem irreverent by asking questions about specific approaches to solving my problem - I don't intend to be and I really do appreciate the advice. I just like to understand where people are coming from so I can really learn more about the way bread works and develop as a baker (and more than anything make better bread!)....

People have said it's a problem with gluten development and a couple people have said that it might be a problem with my technique -- so I just thought maybe trying a different technique might work :S....

But these latest posts have pointed me more towards my starter - which I'm going to concentrate on and post the results....

I was always going to take the advice....I'm just really curious about this stuff :)

Best wishes,

Jamie

Heath's picture
Heath

To be fair to you, Jamie, gluten development was discussed a LOT earlier in the thread, with me (having VERY similar problems with my sourdough to you), stating that intensive kneading helped with my liquidy dough.  Doing 15 minutes of slap and folds did make my dough easier to handle and shape - surprisingly so, as I wasn't expecting any change.

However, I do feel that intensive kneading, although helpful, does not address the source of the problem.  I'm also trying the 1:10:10 experiment that Mini Oven suggested.  It's going very, very slowly, especially given the chilly temperatures in the UK at the moment.  Mine hasn't doubled yet in 24 hours!

How are you doing?

JamieD's picture
JamieD

(And yes.....I'm new to baking and I have no idea what I am talking about.... I'm simply trying to rationalise stuff in my head and maybe that leads to some pretty shoddy conclusions -- but I'm just trying to learn how bake a good loaf of sourdough bread :)....)

FueledByCoffee's picture
FueledByCoffee

Wow, well this really spiraled.  I didn't mean to suggest that it was without a doubt your flour.  I'm sure you can make perfectly good bread using UK flours.  It is never bad to be mindful of the flour you are using in regards to the application.  There is a reason we have all different kinds of flours...they are not all the same and some are going to be better for different applications and some can be used across a pretty broad spectrum of products...I'm curious to see where your testing leads you.  When I have the time I'll have to try out some of these tartine recipes.

JamieD's picture
JamieD

Hiya gys,

So I did what mini oven suggested and place 10 grams of starter with 100grams (50% rye and 50 white) with 100grams of britta filtered water. I put the starter (which had been fed almost exactly 24 hours beforehand) on the bottom and flour water mixture on top and did not stir. The temperature of the room was 69 degrees farenheit (it's getting colder here now). Both the water and flour were at room temperature.

This is the first photo I took - I realise now that I put the black line a little high because it wasn't perfectly level.... but it's a useful reference point nonetheless....

 

This was two hours later...

And 8 hours later.....

Not much in terms of rising but definitely some activity on the bottom:

This was the next day (had to go to sleep) -- around 20 hours after the initial feeding

And the bottom again:

And the top....

It has a pleasant smell but does not yet pass the float test....

The growth is hardly inspiring but I'm wondering whether I should of done it while my mature starter was at it's peak (8 hours after feeding rather than 24).....

So, what do you guys think?

Best Regards,

Jamie

 

 

JamieD's picture
JamieD

2 Hours later.... it passes the float test (finally)

Les Nightingill's picture
Les Nightingill

it's normal to stir... the fermentation would probably have been much faster if you had stirred the mixture

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

When I read the procedure.  

Wow, layers!  I've never tried that before.  (I think you just invented time release starter feeding. could be a neat trick if you need to feed and can't be there to do it.)

See?  You can even teach an old dog a new trick!   Ok, my fault.  I should have given more exact directions.

Feeding a starter means mixing the food (flour) and water into the starter.  Just like you normally do when feeding a starter.  Otherwise, if a loaf was made this way, we'd sure have funny loaves!  So, let us try it again.  

Feed the starter the 1:10:10 ratio and after stirring it together pack it carefully into your very nice straight sided container.  Try to keep the sides clean as you do this so the starter is easy to watch.  Put the lid on loose, don't screw it down tightly so pressure does not build up inside the container.  Mark the level.   I like to tape on paper or use 1" wide masking tape, this way I can transfer the information to my notebook (just pull off the tape and stick it into my notes.)  Once the jar is ready to watch, don't stir it because this can degas the starter messing up the results when comparing.  

I will tell you that a rounded dome will form and rise up the container as gas builds and is trapped in the starter.  Once it levels off and starts to fall down (degassing on its own) it will reach a certain level where the gluten strands collapse onto themselves, create a new gas trapping structure and start rising again.  This would then be a second peak and it is not as high as the first peak.  We are currently only interested in the first high peak.  

There will be a lag time in the beginning and typically it should start rising and increase exponentially.   At a temperature of 75°F, nothing will be happening in the first four to six hours.  (Colder temps will take much longer.)   Then check on it every hour as it starts to rise.  Do keep this test at the temperatures you normally use for your current bread recipe.  That will make comparisons easier.   Any Q's just ask.

JamieD's picture
JamieD

I thought not stirring was a bit weird! But I thought maybe a starter's ability to diffuse in the culture might be a sign of strength or something :S

Would it be okay to use the same type of container (truly straight sided containers are a rare commodity in my flat :P).... And should I double the quantities to make the rise more pronounced?

Thanks a lot,

Jamie

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

or a tall narrow drinking glass?   or just increase it (15:150:150).  I see that you raise your starter slowly when the room is cold.  And that it takes 24hrs makes sense with a 1:1:1 feeding -- because it is so cold.  Good so.  When warmer, the starter will ferment much faster.   Yeast does like it warmer although there have been a few starters that have thrived in the cold, but that is more the exception than the rule.  

There are yeast and bacteria, some can move thru the culture for food, the others are stationary letting the food come to them.  Without stirring, starter is apt to be lopsided until the bubbles start doing some stirring.  With the cold temps, that takes a while before the activity does the stirring.  You can also use some of the above tested starter for the next test, it may turn out to be more yeasty than the older one.  Stir well first before taking a sample.  Make sure it is good and yeasty.

Ok!  Lets go!

dosco's picture
dosco

I too have been having problems with "liquidy dough." I have followed the "San Joaquin Sourdough" recipe twice now with mixed results. The first try was a week ago. I built some starter about 3 weeks ago (using the "wild yeast" method also posted here on TFL) and it got yeasty/bubbly/smelly (in a good way). Following the recipe the dough was extremely wet. I pressed on and got a good tasting yet ugly loaf. Crumb was so-so because I didn't wait long enough for the final rise.

I was not happy with the result so I tried again, figuring it was poor stretch-and-fold technique. I also watched a bunch of videos on the KAF website, etc. I also read of the superiority of the 2-hour-autolyse, so I dutifully autolysed for 2 hours, stretch-and-folded totally in accordance with the recipe, 21 hours in the fridge, shaped it, waited, etc. etc. etc.

I baked it last night. The dough was still very loose, and the Batard did not hold its shape worth a darn. All in all the loaf definitely looks better than the previous one, and because I waited on the final rise the crumb is beautiful. Tastes good (although not particularly sour).

So I did more reading and I think my starter was too thin. I had been feeding it at 100% hydration with unbleached flour, so yesterday I picked up some rye flour and fed the starter at 50% hydration. The discard was like runny pancake batter. This morning the starter (with 50% hyd rye flour) is still rising, nearly doubled in volume.

So here is my question ... I'm thinking the starter is going to be much better, but should I go to a lower hydration with the bread recipe so that I can achieve the proper surface tension? The SJSD recipe is something like 75% hydration and when I watch the KAF videos their dough looks more like what I am used to/have experienced (many many years ago I worked in a pizza shop and we made dough every day ... that dough was more like the KAF video). Should I add some vital wheat gluten?

Thanks for the help! TFL is a great resource ... just using a very hot oven, pizza stone, and steam has rocked my world ... the bread is now crusty and delicious!!

Cheers-
Dave

Les Nightingill's picture
Les Nightingill

I'm reluctant to hijack Jamie's thread here, your problems are different from Jamie's. Start a new thread, Dave, if you would like some help.

In short, though. If your starter discard is runny, it's probably way past its peak... feed daily and don't use starter that has already "fallen". It's possible, too, that it's not even rising, as you didn't mention that... it should rise to near double. 75% hydration dough should not be "liquidy". It can be tricky to shape at this hydration, you probably need to practice your preshaping and shaping skills, it'll make a lot of difference to how the dough holds together.

Les

dosco's picture
dosco

Les:
I posted a separate thread in the "Sourdough" forum but nobody has responded or posted in that thread (other than me).

I think the problem was 1) not active enough starter, and 2) insufficient gluten development. I think #1 based on this thread, and #2 based on a recent loaf of "My Daily Bread" that I made immediately after the last SJSD (which was a fail).

The latest loaf (started last night) I made was based on "My Daily Bread" however 1) I used a SD starter instead of packaged yeast, and 2) made it at lower hydration (I don't know the number, I would estimate 60-something-percent).

-Dave

dosco's picture
dosco

Les:
No problem. Will post a new thread later today.

Apologies if my post was not appropriate in terms of thread hijacking, etc.

Regards-
Dave

 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

the problem is that different.  Keep track of this thread as it continues. 

DreadAndDream's picture
DreadAndDream

I have been having the same problem as Jamie, and just want to add some points from my experience.

I live in Denmark, and I've seen other treads where people in my are area having trouble with the dough structure. I'm doing everything by the (Tartine) book. I used to get delicious, but rather flat loaves with a clay-like crumb texture. Not optimal.

In Denmark there is a strong focus on reviving old Scandinavian grains, and many high end bakeries are selling beautiful and tasty loaves made from flour from these old grains. Actually, Chad Robertson's new book was is about his experience with the grains he encoutered in Denmark.
One of the most celebrated grains recently is one called "Ølandshvede" ("Oeland Wheat" would be the translation, it's named after a Swedish island), and logically I wanted to try to make the tartine bread with this flour, "Ølandshvedemel". 


And here we go - all the same problems as Jamie:

- The dough seems to be weaker and weaker for every hour of fermentation. The dough is not developing. It's breaking down into mud. I can tell what's going to happen to my dough by just looking at the levain - by the time it passes the float test it has bubbles and strings and everything, but it's just too soft - a gooey mess to be honest, and I know my dough will adapt this behaviour.

I've since had the same result with other local flours, all praised for their "high protein" and "very high gluten quality".

 

This is where the fun starts. I tried a kind of flour known as "Manitoba", which can, as far as I have read, be either a Canadian wheat variety or a name that is applied more casually in Italy to flour with a very high protein content. This flour was italian, so the latter is probably the case here. 
When I tried this, all the structural problems magically disappeared. The dough was acting more and more like a water balloon every hour, and it would release its grip on the table, my hands and the scraper like I had never seen it before (except in the videos of people getting it right), even when I used barely any extra flour/water/oil.

And when I made my levain with the new flour, I had to work much harder to dissolve my levain into the water when making the dough - with the old flour I would barely have to stir. As if the mere levain itself had gained a good gluten structure without being folded or anything.

Great rise, beautiful loaf:

 

HOWEVER - this is not just a praise post for Manitoba flour - because to be honest, it didn't have much flavour. Only a great texture. So I needed to try still another flour. I found an internet shop that sold some freshly milled flour, also from some old revived grains - (named Scalin and Goldblume if you must know). So, being a bozo, I bought 14 kilograms (to save on shipping), and now my dough is back to being a runny muddy ooze, breaking down into a pulpier mess with each passing hour.

This suggests to me that THE FLOUR IS THE ISSUE. It could be that some enzymes in my starter is eating the gluten - and the dough really does seem to be "digested" in a way, the way it breaks down, but why doesn't this happen with the Manitoba flour?

So my advice to JamieD is just this: Try the Manitoba Flour, you can at least get it on UK Amazon. Just try one bake and you will know if this was the problem. Then, like me, you can start wondering if you have to order some flour from across the Atlantic to deal with the flavour problem, because that's sadly where I am now.

 

I also want to draw your attention to this Youtube channel - it only has a few videos, all Tartine related - but I think it's the best example I have seen so far of how the dough should look and act during shaping, and how the loaf will look when it's a success. Note the waterballoony character of the dough when he's shaping it.

 

http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCT_c9SWUH5qNTApqGes7y0Q/videos

FueledByCoffee's picture
FueledByCoffee

Thank you for sharing your experience.  Having no experience actually making this exact dough I was only throwing out a thought but this is very interesting.  In your experience are those flours that seem to break down when producing a tartine style loaf adequate for shorter fermentation breads?

DreadAndDream's picture
DreadAndDream

I must admit I haven't tried - I only tried reducing the fermentation times (bulk rise and/or proofing) while still using the same Tartine recipe. 

That didn't help - The dough wasn't falling apart as much (yet), but the positive effects of fermentation was equally lacking, creating a dense bread with no flavour.

But still, they are marketed as bread flours, and the high end bakeries use them to make nice voluminous loaves - but I'm pretty sure they use some commercial yeast in them, which allows them to shorten the fermentation.

FueledByCoffee's picture
FueledByCoffee

Of course.  Well, if you ever make a pain au levain style loaf I think it would be really interesting to see how the flour holds up with 2-3 hours bulk fermentation.  As I said, I haven't had a chance to work with the tartine recipes yet, it's on my list to eventually explore, I just get really busy with work...

ananda's picture
ananda

Whilst not as strong as a Manitoba flour, the Allinson brand is at least its equivalent in that it is an industrially-produced high quality bread flour.   It is not an artisan type of flour akin to the old types mentioned above as being popularly revived.   It is milled by Associated British Foods for Allied Bakeries...huge companies in the UK, to a specification set up for bread.   Please, there is nothing wrong with the flour.

Andy

DreadAndDream's picture
DreadAndDream

I don't think it has to do with the stretch-and-folds, because that was easy with the Manitoba flour. So it has to be the starter or the flour. 

But you might be right in that it's not necessarily the type/brand of wheat flour but other factors - when I think of it, the Manitoba flour differs from the other ones I used in that it was non-organic (which means it contains ascorbic acid) and several months old, while the other flours are freshly milled. From other threads linked to above I have read that dough-eating enzymes are more active in fresh flour, but Chad Robertson uses fresh flour himself according to his book.

But why is JamieD having trouble with Allinson flour then? Unless it is also very fresh and without ascorbic acid.... 

Argh - I don't get it. Sorry Jamie, I don't want to hijack, It seems that we Europeans are struggling much more with the Tartine bread than our brothers and sisters across the sea.

ananda's picture
ananda

does not necessarily contain Ascorbic Acid.   If it has been added it has to be labelled,   Allinson is unadulterated in that regard: http://www.allinsonflour.co.uk/products/strong-white-bread-flour.html

The only treatments which the Allinson flour will be subjected to [not required to be labelled] are the following:

  1. Fortification with vitamins/minerals as required for all white flour by law
  2. Adjustment of the amylase content by the use of fungal enzymes by the miller for consistent performance in terms of fermentation.   Again this is standard practice.

If you are unable to make the Robertson bread why don't you try a different sourdough process from a different author?

The Manitoba flour is around 15% protein so is likely to give great tolerance in fermentation.   BUT, it will take a long time for the high gluten to modify and ripen to allow for extensibilty needed for oven spring.   From that point of view only, a strong bread flour such as Allinsons may not be the first choice.   But it will perform better than the Manitoba flour in this particular aspect of process.

Try another type of bread by another author if you can't get this right.   That could be your best means to allow you to return to this bread in the future with greater knowledge and confidence which allow you to succeed with what is actually a difficult bread to master.   There are easier alternatives, allowing a safer, some might say better, passage.   But, please, there is nothing wrong with the Allinsons flour.

Best wishes

Andy 

JamieD's picture
JamieD

Hiya guys,

Sorry I haven't posted in a while - haven't exactly had much time to make bread.

I was going to test the starter as mini-oven suggested but yesterday but due to circumstances I only had time to make bread....

I made a variety of changes this time, because rather than being obsessed with robertson's formula I just want to create a good loaf of bread, and came up with a much better result:

1) I used a different formula this time -- the 1:2:3 ratio of leaven (100%), to water, to flour (80% Allisons White and 20% Wholemeal).... using much more leaven and a lower hydration in comparison to the tartine loaf

2) I used the slap and fold knead technique after the autolyse.... as well as a couple of stretch and folds during bulk fermentation.

3) The bulk fermentation was 3 hours and final rise was 2 -- both shorter than normal - I could see the dough was getting less strong especially as the proof went on

4) Oh! and i changed my starter feeding ratio from 1:1:1 to 1:2:2

And hey presto! I came with a lovely textured flavoursome loaf of bread that had an airy crumb and good oven spring :)

In an ideal world I would have changed one thing at a time -- though regrettably I don't have the free time to do this (I'm just glad that the bread's good!)Hopefully my experience might be able to help other people with similar problems with sourdough however....

Will be posting pictures of the bread later when I have time....

Best Regards,

Jamie 

JamieD's picture
JamieD

Les Nightingill's picture
Les Nightingill

That loaf looks great. Somewhere amongst all the changes you made is the "critical" change that made the diff. I think most of the changes are not particularly relevant to the final outcome, but I would bet your starter and levain ended up much more vigorous through this process.

cheers

Les

clazar123's picture
clazar123

Looks wonderful!

Sometimes it is great to fly by the seat of your pants just to know it can be done. Throw-together doughs (no real recipe) have produced some of my greatest loaves. The problem comes in trying to duplicate but,hey, that's ok-just make another fantastic loaf that is slightly different.