The Fresh Loaf

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Proofing help needed

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Bakingmadtoo's picture
Bakingmadtoo

Proofing help needed

Hi all, I am in need of your expert advice once again. Since I have found this forum my baking has improved no end, my problem (self diagnosed), is I believe that I am consistently under proving my loaves.  The best loaves I have made so far were from this lovely recipe. So I know the recipe is good. I did add an extra 5g of salt, which I know slows the yeast down, but I like a bit more salt in my bread. Apart from that I kept exactly to the recipe.

 http://www.northwestsourdough.com/discover/?p=1174

My kitchen is very cold at the minute, between 8 and 10 degrees. So the first time I made this recipe, I used my oven to prove the bread ( with a jug of hot water in), actually I kept the starter, then the bulk rise and the final proof in the cooker. It actually proofed for the final proof rather faster than I was expecting. I thought I had over proofed it, so got it in the cooker as fast as possible. It deflated quickly when I turned it out, so I expected flat dense loaves. To my surprise, these came out, not perfect, but far better than I expected and the first time ever there has been any sign of ears on my bread.

Now, I made the same recipe again yesterday, again I did the starter and bulk rise in the oven, but at 6pm, after a five hour bulk rise, I shaped the loaves and put them in my garage, which is around the same temperature, maybe a degree or two colder then my kitchen. I took them out to bake at 6.15 this morning, they are in the oven now. But yet again they have blown out at the sides. If I have time I will take a photo.

The blowing at the sides happens with every loaf I make, and I have made many now.  So, I think that I am under proofing every time. I have read loads of threads about the poke test, but it is obviously not helping me very much. Is there anything more subtle about the detail of correctly proofed dough? The dent stays down when I bake, so I think it is done.

I have read about taking a small piece of dough and putting that in a marked cup. Will a small piece of dough kept in the same conditions, proof at the same rate as a full loaf or will it proof faster?

I wish I had paid more attention to the dough I thought was over proofed, as it obviously wasn't. 

The only other thing I can think of, is that it is a shaping issue, and I do need to work on that I know. When my bread is cool enough to take a picture, I will show you what has happened to this morning's bake.

Thank you all again. Your help is invaluable. I have learned such a lot.

 

Bakingmadtoo's picture
Bakingmadtoo

Sorry, I can't work out how to add photos of today's bake as I wanted to show my problem, but don't seem to be able to add another image.

DavidEF's picture
DavidEF

If you think your dough is underproofed, why not just try adding an extra half hour or so, and see what happens? As for the shaping, I'm not very experienced, so take this with a grain of salt, but it seems that it could only be that you are shaping well. If you were not shaping well, it would be loose and most likely not blow out the sides. I haven't looked at that recipe, but normally a tight shape is a good thing. There are exceptions, such as ciabatta. I think a little more proofing time may well be what is needed. I can't think of any reason not to just try it.

Bakingmadtoo's picture
Bakingmadtoo

Thank you for that David, it is good to know that it is unlikely to be a shaping problem, at least that eliminates one thing. I am going to have to hold my breath and hang on longer. 

This is this mornings bake and you can see the explosion at the side! And the unopened slash on the top! 

Bakingmadtoo's picture
Bakingmadtoo

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

10 hrs rise to your dough when it stands in the garage.  Try folding the dough at the point you thought to bake it, and instead of baking allow it to rise longer.  Cold temps really slow down fermentation!  See if you can over prove a loaf.

Bakingmadtoo's picture
Bakingmadtoo

Thank you Mini oven. I think you are saying to prove much longer. I will try not to chicken out with the next loaves. I have read so much about it being better to slightly under prove than to over prove, but I think I am way off. I will try another stretch and fold as well at the point that you suggest. Thank you for taking the time to reply.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

now too.  We just had several days of -10°C lows outside and my cupboards don't seem too insulated from it, nice and cool for flour storage but very slow for raising starters and bread dough.    I'm into checking my flour temps now and using warm water in my dough or I'd be waiting all week for a rise.  Rye tends to get stiff in the cooler temps.  But I do think my kitchen is warmer than yours.

No snow but very frosty.  (Would be nice to have some snow so I can experiment with snow dough!) 

dosco's picture
dosco

I think I'm making underproofed bread as well.

Stiff upper lip and all that ...

Bakingmadtoo's picture
Bakingmadtoo

Thank's again Mini Oven. I am going to try leaving it much longer. I read yesterday by chance in my Ballymaloe cookery book that if I over prove I can add flour and water and bake the next day. A bit vague, but of course this would be just using it as a very large starter/ mother dough I think. So, if I should over prove, I won't waste my very good ingredients. I think you are right though, I will find that it will take far more proofing than I am giving it. Thank you. 

Heath's picture
Heath

I have read about taking a small piece of dough and putting that in a marked cup. Will a small piece of dough kept in the same conditions, proof at the same rate as a full loaf or will it proof faster?

A small piece of dough MAY proof a little faster, but it's a very good way to get a handle on how much proofing your dough needs.  I've done it myself when I didn't have a clue, and it was very helpful.  I bake when the small dough ball is about 90% of doubled.  I bake the dough ball too, so nothing is wasted.

My kitchen is nearly as cold as yours at the moment - it takes an age for sourdough to rise in these temperatures :)

Antilope's picture
Antilope

Fill your crock pot half full of warm water, turn it to LOW or HIGH depending on how much heating you need. A crock pot heats the food, internally, to about 80°C (175°F) on LOW, 93°C (200°F) on HIGH). Put the lid in place, inverted (up-side-down). Place a folded kitchen towel on the inverted lid. Now place your covered bowl of dough or starter on the kitchen towel. If the dough gets too warm, turn the crockpot down or add another folded towel or two between the dough bowl and the inverted crock pot lid.

Bakingmadtoo's picture
Bakingmadtoo

Heath, thank you for that. I will definitly try the small piece of dough method as well. I know that I just need to get the feel for fully proofed dough, but can't do that until I have had some to get the feel of! I am sure at the very least using a small piece of dough will allow me to feel what properly proofed dough should be like. To be honest, I suppose in theory I could divide a piece of dough into several pieces and bake at different times to assess the results of proofing time. As you say, at least I can eat the results!

Antilope, unfortunately I don't have a crock pot, which was why I tried a batch proofing in the oven. It does make proofing a lot faster.  I am intending to try a few hours in the oven with a jug of hot water for the final proof and then into the garage or out on the work top over night to bake in the morning.  I will get there in the end. Thank you for your help.

 

Antilope's picture
Antilope

using the light bulb for heat. But when the oven is busy (like around the holidays) then I use the crock pot proofer.

Another proofer is a bowl of hot water in the microwave. Since most microwaves are smaller and better sealed than most ovens, it might work better. 

On another board, someone use to proof their yogurt in the microwave. They would run the microwave for a few seconds every few hours to warm the yogurt directly. It worked and didn't kill the cultures, if you didn't get it too hot.

For those interested, here's a link to the Microwave Yogurt Incubation recipe on Chowhound

http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/474299

 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

(getting back to other subtle clues when dough is ready to bake)  Notice that as the dough ferments, it smells less like wet flour and more like beer or yeast as the yeast multiply.  Over proofed dough will smell pungent in this regard, like peaked ripe starter.  

There are a few who bake by their nose, come into the kitchen, pick up on the aromas and declare, "Yup, smells ready!"   I think your poke test if not followed by a good amount of yeast aroma, is telling you your bulk rise is over, the stretch is at its end and the gluten needs to be folded over onto itself for the next rise.  

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

which is what we do in the winter.  I just cover the HP with a kitchen towel, put the prob thermometer on the towel with the bulk or basketed dough in a trash can liner on top and cover with a towel. Just have to adjust the temperature of the heating pad to 80-84 F,  Seems to work easy enough.

Are you slashing your dough to let it have a place to expand into rather than blowing out the side?

Bakingmadtoo's picture
Bakingmadtoo

Antilope, I will do a little research into microwave proofing, I have a combi oven as well as my main oven and I could certainly try that.

Hi Mini, I shall take a good long sniff at my dough next time and see if I can pick up anything from that. I am not sure I have the best sense of smell, but it is certainly worth a go.

Dabrownman, would that be the kind of heat pad used in brewing? A heat pad is not something I am familiar with, but looked on A ***zon and found a brewing one, which would seem fairly economical to run. I am based in the UK so I am not always familiar with the things mentioned on here.

Yes, I am slashing my dough. I tried to post some photos. I will have another go. If the photo has come out, you can see the top of the loaf with the slash, it didn't open much more than it had opened by the time I got it into the Oven. This is actually what is happening to every loaf I bake and it is becoming a bit disheartening. With the exception of the one loaf I thought I had over proofed, which didn't blow out at the bottom.

 

Antilope's picture
Antilope

For proofing bread, I was talking about placing dough and a bowl of hot water in the microwave as warm, small space to proof dough. NOT microwaving the dough. You can take the dough out and heat the water and then return the dough. Reheating bread in the microwave never really goes well, so I can just imagine what it would do to dough.

I was talking about someone that slightly microwaves their yogurt to incubate that. But yogurt doesn't have gluten.  Incubating yogurt with microwaves does work.

Bakingmadtoo's picture
Bakingmadtoo

Ah, yes, I see. It would be better than my conventional cooker because it is smaller and better sealed, so easier to keep nice and warm. (Might fancy a go at yogurt making too now that you have put the idea in my head!).